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Is Mychal Kendricks Playing Out Of Position?

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.

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Posted by on Aug 16 2012. Filed under BREAKING NEWS, Eagles, Linebackers, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

30 Comments for “Is Mychal Kendricks Playing Out Of Position?”

  1. DeMeco Ryans is a 1 Year Stop Gap MLB for the EAgles
    Kendricks belongs and is best suited for the MLB positoin which he will be come 2013 and maybe even sooner if Ryans continues to Struggle..
    I expect by Mid-Season, Ryans will not be on the field in nickle/passing situations and will have Kendricks slide in the Middle with Casey Matthews and Probably Brian Rolle

  2. Yeah I agree G.the Birds don’t have these players playing to the strengths

  3. vinnietheevictor

    Should have drafted Burfict.

  4. Off topic, but how has Plax to Carolina not happened yet? The team has cap room (that they won’t need to carry over) and he’s not going to cost much over the Vet minimum.

    A redzone offense with a great O-line, Smith, Olsen, Tolbert, Stewart/Williams, Cam and Plax’s fade on the field at the same time? Pick your poison scary

  5. On topic it was a weak FA market for SAM this year and they would have overpaid. The only real possibility was Hawthorne who is just OK in coverage, but received a reasonable contract from the Saints. I would agree that Kendricks would probably thrive at WILL, but I would feel more comfortable having Chaney/Rolle battling it out for WILL, that Chaney/Jordan/Clayton battling for SAM.
    A Kendricks/Ryans/Hawthorne would have been fun to watch in the base, but would be difficult to rationalize 1 of your 2 $ LBs not being on the field in the nickle.

  6. When Kendricks was drafted I thought the Eagles would make him the WILL first and put Chaney back at SAM. To me, Kendricks and Chaney are the most versatile LBs on the team, with each being able to play all 3 positions. I would say we should take a wait and see approach before we start saying players are out of position, but the Castillo does not have a good track record on that. Anyway, the starting LBs should be: Chaney, Ryans, Kendricks.
    Paulman, could we at least wait until a couple of weeks into the season before we call Ryans a stop-gap.
    Vinnie, why draft Burfict when he went undrafted? That would’ve been a wasted pick. Now you can make the argument the we should have signed him as an UDFA, then I would tend to agree with you.

  7. That 6’3 LB was on the Board in the name of Shea McClellin from BYU who I really liked and is the Starting SAM backer for the Bears and had 3 Tackles, 1 Sack and 1 tackle for a loss in his debut with the Bears
    A LB Corp of Urlacher,Briggs and McClellin will be a very good one

  8. Mclellin went to Boise St and is playing DE for the Bears. I liked him coming out too, really athletic guy, thought about for a SAM around draft time, but worried about him in coverage. Perfect fit for 3-4 OLB, but looks like he’s settling in well at DE. Would have been too rich to take him as a SAM at the 19th pick. Kuechly was the only LB I would have been OK w in the 1rst.

  9. Paulman
    You think the Eagles should’ve picked McClellin over Fletcher Cox???

  10. Finally, a good, in-depth article about some of the tactical parts of football! G, I’m happy to see you relating your experiences with the position to what you are seeing in practice.

    Please keep more articles like these coming. We can bring out the best in you!!

  11. vinnietheevictor

    I was just making jokes.

    I just figured this article would have led to Songs et. al. coming out of the woodwork screaming about Burfict,and I just wanted to preempt them.

  12. I think you are dead on G.

  13. I agree G. But I sure hope your wrong Paulman. We desperately need Ryans to play well this season. I say he comes on strong these next few pre season games.

  14. Burfict is kicking ass in Cincy and they got him for virtually nothing….Demeco ryans is a damn bum.

    He was non existent.

    All that got damn hype after the Texans knew he was through.

    Told ya!

  15. Kendricks should be playing WILL. I’ve said this a couple of times too. I’m glad to see it published by Gary. Like I said, my hope is that the Stewart Bradley gets cut and the Eagles can scoop him up. I think DeMeco Ryans will eventually become a play maker for this defense. For now, I’m hoping for a good prototypical SAM to get cut, either as a salary cap casualty, because a team has too many LBs or because they’re just poor talent evaluators…any of those three scenarios is a possibility.

    The Eagles should kick the tires of Clint Sintim and maybe try to bring him along with his reconstructed knee until something better comes along. The guy may very well be able to play full speed by mid-season which would be at least helpful for a team with no prototypical SAM.

  16. vinnietheevictor

    If you call “great” just sitting in space while Tebow Tebows it right to him. Then yes, Burfict is kicking ass.

    Reading all about him. Everywhere. Haven;t heard a word about Kuchely either.

    On a side note…I am still very skeptical about Ryan returning to his pre-injury form (which I don;t think will happen) but I’ll give him more than a quarter of play.

  17. I hope so too DMAN, Ryans play is critical the play of LB Corp and the Eagles need to find a solid thumper to play the middle for a couple seasons in a row and stop this shuffling door in the middle..I do believe that Kendricks will be that player come 2013 for Ryans has a big Contract and unless he plays very well will be a short-term band-aid I am afraid..

  18. Kuechley is playing very well so far and has had a solid camp and very strong !st Preseason game– 4-5 Tackles, 1 sack and 1 Forced Fumble in about 1 and 1/2 Quarters of play last week and is playing at the SAM Spot with Beason in the Middle and James Anderson at the WILL spot which is a pretty darn good LB Corp..

  19. Come on Paul you always have good comments..but you’re killing the cred. Kuechly played WILL (not SAM) all night and was fantastic in the nickle for Carolina against Houston. That goal-line stop in the first was a thing of beauty. I will agree that the Kuechly, Beason, Anderson lineup is going to be one to watch this year. Have agreed with you Paul, Kuechly is not hype, General on the field and as advertised “Just Makes Tackles” would have been a target if Cox didn’t drop

  20. Paul, you’re making alot of miscues today bro! Take your Saint John’s Wart! You’re starting to disappoint! :D

  21. Middle of the month blues fellas, running low on my Meds..

  22. Watch for WR Mardy Gilyard to have a big game tonight and throw his helmet into the 53Man Roster.. Eagles with a lot of Talent at WR Position at Camp this year and shoudl consider to move Trade Maclin and/or Avant while they have Value

  23. 5 Most Over-Rated Eagles on this years Roster who all need to have big-seasons or the Eagles are a .500 Team at best

    #1) CB Asmo
    #2) QB Vick
    #3) MLB Ryans
    #4) WR D-Jax
    #5) DL C Jenkins

  24. Paulman — Eagles don’t play tonight you moron.

  25. Friday Night,Saturday Night,Sunday NIght,MOnday Night… Who cares when the game is Birdbrain, Watch Gilyard have a big game this upcoming Pre-Season game versus the Pats..

  26. eagles0superbowls

    at least Kendricks is trying to make tackles and plays — Rolle just tries not to get run over

  27. vinnietheevictor

    Well think I agre with 4 of your 5 “ovrrated” list Paul, hugh I wouldn’t put Jenkins on there.

    That being said, I would re-order your positons/plaer insfar as examinging what could derail the season. I can;t beleve you left out LT.

    Potential dangers that could drail the season, in ordr:

    1 – QB (we all know hw I fell bout this
    2 – LT (counting on Buffalo Bills rejects never a good idea.)
    3 – CB (Asamo was best on a bad team. Teams didn’t avoid him because he was “gret” they jut attacked whowas even weaker. DRC is a wildcard – though I expct him to try ard in his conract year.)
    4 – Overated Desean and a Maclin who can’t seem to shake the nagging injuries.

    On the flip side…

    Key to a succssful season:
    1 – Solid dvelopment of right side of young OL
    2 – $$ RB
    3 – DL

    Just not sure this can overcome deficiencies at QB and LT and potential probs in scondary and WR.

  28. vinnietheevictor

    Does anyone else have problems typing on here. My posts keep skipping letters.

  29. The guy who is in the wrong position is Juan Castillo.

  30. Rght now Kendricks is the best linebacker on the team and leave it up to this idiot Juan Castillo to play him in the one linebacker position he shouldn’t be.

    He’ll switch him after we’re 1-4 again.

    I would like a defensive coordinator that’s not learning on the job..Is that too much to ask? God Damn!

    Juan should be carrying Bowles clipboard…but what the hell.

    We’re Eagles Fans…

    I heard the water boy overheard meetings of the late “JJ” while mopping the floors near his office.

    Hell, let’s make him the next D Coordinator…He can’t be any worse.

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