Even the most optimistic of evaluators would say that Mychal Kendricks’ performance has slipped over the last season and a quarter.
The linebacker played well enough in 2013 and '14 that the Eagles extended his rookie contract four more years for $29 million. But Kendricks hasn’t been the same since he signed that contract in August 2015.
“I mean, I’m not even playing,” Kendricks said on Wednesday when asked to assess his play this season vs. 2013 and '14. “So until then, it is what it is.”
Kendricks saw a small uptick in the percentage of snaps he played in Sunday’s loss to the Lions, but through four games, he has been on the field only 33 percent of the time. Last season, he was in a rotation and played 62.5 percent of the defensive snaps in the 13 games in which he was active.
The 26-year-old linebacker played almost every down, though, when he was healthy in 2014 (89 percent in 12 games) and in 2013 (89 percent in 15 games). Times have changed.
“I’m playing 33 percent,” Kendricks said. “I’m playing all right with what’s been given.”
Kendricks played almost exclusively in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s base package through the first three games. But he played some nickel with Stephen Tulloch on the Lions’ third drive of the first half, while regulars Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks watched.
“That was the plan going in,” Kendricks said. “Give those guys a break.”
The Lions scored on their first two drives, but they once again marched down the field. Kendricks missed tackling Theo Riddick on a third-and-11 dump. The running back was stopped short of the sticks, but Detroit picked up the first down on the next play.
“Just an open-field tackle against an elusive back,” Kendricks said of Riddick, who beat him for a 1-yard touchdown catch on the first drive. “I tried to make up some ground. I missed the tackle, so I need to force that back more outside. Honestly, I’m just trying to slow his momentum down. He’s pretty good.”
Kendricks appeared to struggle on a few more plays during the possession, but he clearly took a poor angle on a Golden Tate end-around that advanced the Lions to the 1-yard line. They scored a play later.
Schwartz abandoned the nickel rotation in the second half. Kendricks was part of the package before he suffered a hamstring injury in training camp, but by the time he returned, Bradham had leapfrogged him.
He said before the season started that he has had to adjust to playing less, but that he was on board with Schwartz’s decision. Nevertheless, his role has shifted. Kendricks’ best attribute was blitzing, but he hasn’t gotten many chances this season, if any at all, because of situations and Schwartz’s reluctance to send extra rushers.
“We have a [blitz] lineup, but it’s just a different defense,” Kendricks said. “There’s time when we may go or may not. The time just hasn’t been called for it, I guess.”