Getting in a rhythm, getting in a flow, is important for Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
“That’s everything,” Kendricks said after Tuesday’s OTA practice. “It truly is.”
That’s why last season was so tough on the veteran linebacker. Under former defensive coordinator Bill Davis and head coach Chip Kelly, Kendricks was forced into a rotation with DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, and later Jordan Hicks.
In a year when he did nurse a hamstring injury for a few weeks, Kendricks played just 52 percent of defensive snaps in 2015. After playing all 77 snaps in the opener, Kendricks never got above 90 percent again and didn’t play more than 70 percent of snaps in any of the last five games of the season.
That’s quite a departure for someone who is widely considered to be a three-down linebacker. In 2014, Kendricks played 100 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in seven games.
“I just feel like it was too much hot and cold, with all the players rotating in and out and whatnot,” Kendricks said about his 2015 season. “No one was able to get in the flow. It was odd. But I didn’t feel like I played as good or as much. For the time that I was in, I feel that my numbers were OK. But it’s hard to be a force or something to reckon with when you’re not on the field.”
Kendricks admitted the rotation was tough on him, but did what he was told.
This season, he’s not expected to be in a rotation. For now, he’s the team’s starting weakside linebacker, while Jordan Hicks is in the middle with Nigel Bradham on the strongside. All three, however, are versatile and could be moved around.
“All of those guys are pretty much interchangeable,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “And you have to be now.”
Aside from the rotation at inside linebacker a year ago, Kendricks also dealt with another injury. He basically missed a total of four weeks in 2015 with a lingering hamstring injury. In 2014, Kendricks missed four games with a calf injury.
While Kendricks has never made a Pro Bowl, before last season, when healthy, he has played to that level. In fact, making the Pro Bowl is a personal goal for Kendricks this season.
“I feel like if I stay healthy, you’ll see me in the Pro Bowl,” he said. “Those are things that you can’t control. Unfortunately, a couple times, I’ve fallen short of my personal goal because of an injury. No one wants that. I’m not making any excuses or anything, that’s just what it is.
“I used to beat myself up over that, but as you get older and you start understanding the game, you know that there’s some things that you just literally do not control. You can’t beat yourself up over it.”
If Kendricks does get named to the Pro Bowl this season, his production will match the four-year, $29 million contract extension he signed before the 2015 season began.
From the outside, it seems possible that Kendricks’ new contract might have been a factor in his decline last season, but the linebacker doesn’t seem to think it played much of a role.
“Have I thought about it? Yeah,” Kendricks said. “But then I look back at all the scenarios that could have played an effect. I got paid and I didn’t play as much as I’d like to. It could have went both ways. Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have played at all. I don’t know. Sometimes the grass is greener; sometimes the grass isn’t greener. I’m not a fortune teller or a future teller, I just go with my gut.”