Eagles hope Kendricks cures tight end troubles

Eagles hope Kendricks cures tight end troubles
April 28, 2012, 4:05 am
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Andy Reid didnt have much time to speak with reporters after making both of his second-round picks. A team spokesman even said it would have to be a short session; the Eagles still had a pick in the third round to make before the night was over.

But Reid didn't rush through it; he talked for nine minutes, and it was clear he was happy for one reason: He finally found a linebacker he believes can cover a tight end in second-round pick Mychal Kendricks.

The things you see with him are great athletic ability. Speed, Reid said. He gives you a good opportunity to cover the tight ends.

For Reid, such opportunities have been scarce. In his 13 years as head coach, hes watched his defense even Jim Johnsons best units get torched by the tight end. From Jeremy Shockey to Chris Cooley to Jason Witten to Zach Miller to Brandon Pettigrew to Jacob Tamme to Fred Davis.

Remember when Miller flew by a semi-retired Jeremiah Trotter for an 86-yard TD in 2009? Sorry to bring that one up. Remember last season, when Tony Gonzalez beat the Eagles last season with a pair of TDs (granted one was a terrific one-handed catch)?

The last Eagles LB to start consistently cover a tight end was who Carlos Emmons? Emmons last played here in 2003. Stewart Bradley showed promise before he tore his ACL, and Brian Rolle did too last season as a rookie.

But Rolle is a sixth-round pick, 193rd overall. He wasn't expected to start. Kendricks is a second-round pick, 46th overall. He'd better become a starter.

Were getting someone who can really cover the tight end, Reid reiterated. His pass cover skills are a strong part of his game. When you see the way hes built, youll understand. He plays a very physical game. Youve heard the term when someone is very heavy-handed so when he locks onto you, hes pretty strong with that.

Hed better be, because while Kendricks is 240 pounds, hes only 5-foot-11. But hes strong, hes fast and he has ups. Reid also called him a phenomenal pass rusher.

I just play big, Kendricks said when asked about his height. Thats all I do. I just play big and shut them up that way. Its never been an issue for me, so I dont know why it would be an issue for anyone else.

According to his bio on NFLDraftScout.com, after he ran a 4.47 40 at the Combine and recorded a vertical jump of 39.5 inches, scouts double-checked their tapes. The 40-time was not only the fastest by a linebacker but also best at the position since 2007. Kendricks also completed 24 reps of 225 pounds.

But he did more than just impress at the Combine. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year led Cal with 106 tackles, 14 of which were for loss. He had a sack, a forced fumble, an interception return for a touchdown and two fumble recoveries. He finished his career with four interceptions for 130 return yards and a TD and five pass breakups.

Will all of that allow him to succeed in the NFL? And can he not only stick with tight ends but also handle taller ones? (Emmons is 6-5, and Bradley 6-4).

Hes had success with that, Reid said. In the Pac-12, they throw the ball once or twice out there. Well see how he does. Thats been one of his strengths, so well see how that transfers over. Im thinking it will.

E-mail Andy Schwartz at aschwartz@comcastsportsnet.com.