Is Mychal Kendricks Playing Out Of Position?BREAKING NEWS, Eagles, Linebackers, News Thursday, August 16th, 2012
A few weeks ago I was standing on the side of the field at Lehigh University as the Eagles executed their 9-on-7 drill, which is a run drill for both the defense and the offense. The reason it’s called 9-on-7 is because it’s nine offensive players, everybody except the two wide receivers versus the seven defensive players, the defense without the secondary, no cornerbacks or safeties.
This is a drill which works on the core of your offensive running game; offensive line, tight ends and running backs versus the core of your defensive run defense; defensive line and linebackers. We used run it with live tackling for 20 plays a day when Buddy Ryan was the Eagles coach. It will develop your run defense.
While the 2012 Eagles were doing it, it wasn’t live tackling but rather a thud drill, with the defenders simply colliding with the running back, but not taking them down.
The Eagles offense tried to run an ISO, which is short for an isolation block play. It’s a play which isolates the fullback doing a lead block on one of the linebackers. On this particular play, the Eagles backup fullback, Emi Igwenagu, had an isolation block on rookie outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
When the offense came to the line of scrimmage, Kendricks was lined up in the bubble, which means he was off the line of scrimmage about three or four yards over the offensive tackle. The defensive end was outside of them and the defensive tackle was inside over the guard to that side.
Kendricks was twitching with anticipation while staring into the backfield. This was a run drill, which means, the defenders didn’t have to worry about the passing game. The rookie was anticipating the running play. You rarely get these situations in a game where you can turn it loose and play run like that.
When the ball was snapped, the offensive tackle fired out on the defensive end and the offensive guard fired out on the defensive tackle. Those two battles were stalemated at the line of scrimmage.
Once the fullback Igwenagu, who was lined up three or four yards in the backfield behind the offensive tackle, took a couple of steps forward, Kendricks was in the backfield like a blur. Rather than the fullback attacking the linebacker, it was vice-versa. The former Cal Bear pounded the fullback by firing his helmet and shoulder pad under the chin of Igwenagu. It sounded like a good hit, as if Igwenagu had the ball. But he didn’t, he was just blocking.
The fullback was knocked back into the lap of the running back. Kendricks hit him so hard that I felt sorry for the young fullback. I haven’t seen middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans attack a blocker like this all training camp. The middle linebacker is supposed to quickly read and attack blocking schemes. I haven’t seen the explosiveness in Ryans’ legs, so far. Maybe he’s saving it for the season.
Back to Kendricks.
The aggressiveness of the rookie linebacker almost caused a fumble on the play. Igwenagu fell back into the ball carrier Bryce Brown and nearly messed up the handoff. All I could think about was how Kendricks should be playing Will linebacker because of how his aggressiveness, speed and quickness would allow him to be running all over the field making big hits.
Full speed is the only way Kendricks knows how to play. He’s not a reader and reactor. If I were coaching him I would try to put him in position to turn it loose as much as possible.
Unfortunately Kendricks will get caught biting on some run fakes this season and it will leave the tight end running free, but that’s a part of being a rookie and it’s also because he’s really playing out of position.
Kendricks shouldn’t be playing on the strongside because you can’t turn it loose at that position. You have to react to what the tight end is doing rather than attack plays and force turnovers. If I were an opposing offensive coordinator, I would run a couple of running plays at Kendricks early in the game, then run play action plays against him all day long.
If Kendricks were playing the Will or weak side linebacker position, he would be free to go and blow plays up. You could blitz a lot more and Kendricks is a very good blitzer.
If he were playing WILL, it would allow him to cause turnovers, which are one of the most important factors in the NFL game. He is the perfect Will linebacker because he is an attacker, who can run with any running back in the league.
This will be negated at SAM, or the strongside linebacker, position because he has to cover the tight end all the time. If he attacks the fullback like he did in that drill during a game and it a run fake, the tight end will be running wide open. You’ve got to be patient at SAM, but at WILL you can turn it loose because his pass coverage responsibility will either be covering the fullback or a short zone on that ISO play.
If WILL pounds the fullback on a play action pass, then he’s covered his receiver in a man-to-man coverage. If it’s a zone, then he doesn’t have far to go in running to one of the short zones. The tight end is a tougher coverage because he’s on the line of scrimmage rather than in the backfield like the running backs. The tight ends are also better receivers than most of the backs in the league.
Kendricks had some trouble versus the Steelers of keeping contain. He likes to play with his shoulder pads and needs to get better at using his hands and getting offensive linemen off of him. He doesn’t have long arms, so he gets swallowed up too much. The youngster needs to learn to use his quickness against big offensive linemen to get around them.
I understand that they were looking for somebody, who was good enough of athlete to cover the tight end, but this young man could be making a bigger contribution to the defense. I thought Ryans was going to be an impact player, but he hasn’t been one so far, therefore Kendricks should be turned loose. You’ve got to force turnovers in this league or you’re doomed defensively.
ASAP, I want to see the Birds go get them a true SAM linebacker. He should be at least 6’3″ with long arms and coverage skills. Once they do that they can let Kendricks play where he should be, the WILL linebacker spot.
Short URL: http://gcobb.com/?p=32431