Mychal Kendricks was once considered one of the best playmakers on the Eagles defense. Yet under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, he might have to get used to being nothing more than a role player.
Kendricks played just 19 defensive snaps in the Eagles’ Week 1 win over the Browns because, under Schwartz, the fifth-year linebacker now comes out of the game in nickel packages. Those two spots belong to Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham. And because Kendricks had refused to speak to the media since training camp, it was easy to draw the conclusion he was unhappy about what amounts to a demotion.
On Thursday, Kendricks finally addressed reports, and while Les Bowen for The Philadelphia Daily News can confirm the 25-year-old is “frustrated,” he also seems to be understanding of the situation. In fact, Bowen says Kendricks likes Scwhartz and needs to prove himself to this coaching staff. Kendricks also added he will continue to be a good teammate.
An injury during camp also limited Kendricks, which may have cost him in the competition for playing time with Hicks and Bradham.
“I was pretty rusty coming off the injury,” Kendricks said, via Bowen. “I had to understand that (the new coaches) need to see me play.”
That level of maturity must be good to hear for the Eagles, who didn’t have an easy decision to make with their linebackers. Hicks and Bradham are both bigger and better suited to cover tight ends than the 6-foot Kendricks, who has struggled in that area, so it makes sense.
At the same time, the Eagles are paying an awful lot of money to a two-down linebacker, as Kendricks signed a four-year extension worth $29 million last year. That contract also has incentives should Kendricks make the Pro Bowl, so it’s no wonder why he would be frustrated.
At the same time, Hicks and Bradham have been injury prone in recent years, so Kendricks could find himself in nickel packages out of necessity at some point. The idea he could play his way back isn’t far-fetched either, as he was one of only three linebackers to record at least 8 sacks, 3 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles between the 2013-14 seasons.
For the Eagles, it’s a good problem to have, although if Kendricks doesn’t wind up earning a full-time spot back, you have to wonder what it could mean for his future in Philadelphia. Seeing as general manager Howie Roseman has a reputation for wheeling and dealing, this situation could eventually wind up with Kendricks playing for another team.