In the first preseason game, Mychal Kendricks had a pair of rough moments. He was trucked by LaGarrette Blount on a 3rd and short run that went for a 1st down, and later he was victimized by Tom Brady on a picture-perfect TD throw in which he actually had pretty good coverage.
On Thursday night against the Panthers, Kendricks had a great game. A few of his better moments:
- He made a nice open field tackle on a Cam Newton scramble.
- He blew up DeAngelo Williams in the backfield for a loss. He read run, hit the hole, and made the play.
- He blew up a FB in the hole. The Panthers wound up getting a nice gain anyway, but it was good to see Kendricks get physical with a FB.
- He dropped into coverage several times (mostly into a zone), and was not targeted at all.
All of the above was good, but where I was really encouraged with Kendricks was when he blitzed. Kendricks didn't get many opportunities as a blitzer last season, which was a waste of his skill set. According to Pro Football Focus, Kendricks only rushed the passer 37 times in 2012. That's 2.3 times per game. By my count, the Eagles sent Kendricks on 6 blitzes in the first half alone Thursday night. He made plays on 3 of those, which I'll highlight below:
Here's Kendricks pre-snap. As noted already, he'll be coming on a blitz:
Kendricks is RB DeAngelo Williams' responsibility:
Kendricks sidesteps Williams on the fly, and Williams whiffs on his block:
Kendricks (circled in yellow) comes free, causing QB Cam Newton to have to abandon the pocket. Note Panthers WR Brandon LaFell circled in blue. He's wide open, and this would have been an easy pitch and catch for a 1st down if Newton doesn't have to scramble.
Fletcher Cox converges on Newton, who throws an off-balance incomplete pass while being hit:
Kendricks basically saved a first down here, and possibly some points.
Here's Kendricks on a run blitz. He's going to attack the A gap:
At the snap, Kendricks hits the hole hard, and gets immediate penetration:
Williams had to cut away from Kendricks:
And the rest of the Eagles D, led by Patrick Chung bring him down for a 1-yard gain:
Here Kendricks will come on a delayed blitz. The play develops for a split second, and all the Panthers blockers are occupied, with Williams leaking out into the flat. There is nobody to block Kendricks. It's only a matter of how quickly he can get there:
And he gets there extremely quickly, causing a rushed throw that goes incomplete, while also getting in a nice shot on Newton's ribs:
Kendricks had 8.5 sacks as a junior at Cal. The Eagles' switch to a 3-4 may be much better suited to Kendricks' style, and there's a good chance we'll see him make far more plays this season.