The message was brief if, in fact, the Eagles had intended to put Mychal Kendricks on notice.

But when the third-string tight end and running back are standing on the sideline while you're slogging it out in the Rodney Dangerfield of preseason games, someone somewhere within the organization is clearly trying to make a point.

The first question now is whether Kendricks received the message. If it sailed over his head, or if there was a misinterpretation, then the Eagles may already have the answer.

Judging from Kendricks' refusal to answer questions after the Colts game, when he was the only starter to play into the fourth quarter, and on Tuesday, after coach Doug Pederson said that the linebacker would play in the fourth preseason game, he heard the Eagles loud and clear.

He declined yet another opportunity to clarify his feelings.

"I've got to go see my family," Kendricks said after the Eagles' 14-6 win over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

Kendricks played only 12 snaps on defense and an additional one on special teams - so it wasn't as if the Eagles were trying to hammer him over the head. He had a team-high three tackles in the first quarter - one was a tackle for loss - and then defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called it a night.

Pederson's explanation for playing Kendricks both into the last stanza of the third preseason game and against the Jets had everything to do with missed time. Kendricks sat out the first two preseason games with a hamstring strain.

"He needed to knock a little rust off," Pederson said. "He just hadn't had the game reps that we would have liked him to have throughout the entire training camp. Just felt like it was important for him to be out there under game-like conditions to play. Practice is one thing, games are another."

But were 13 snaps in the most meaningless of what are essentially exhibitions worth the risk of further injuring the starting weakside linebacker? Pederson said he had planned on getting Lane Johnson some playing time - before he begins his likely 10-game suspension - but the right tackle was given the night off.

Johnson is still awaiting the results on the B sample of his failed test for a banned substance, and there is still the possibility that he could be available for the season opener, but Pederson rested his starter, first and foremost, because he's too valuable.

When Jordan Matthews injured his knee in early August, Pederson said that if he wasn't back by the third preseason game, he wouldn't play until the opener even if he was healthy this week. The third-year receiver, the coach said, had already shown enough.

And Kendricks hadn't? He's entering his fifth season in the NFL. He's learning a new defense, but it's not as if the 4-3, one-gap scheme was foreign to him. Kendricks had played in a similar system as a rookie.

"Mychal's a very, very good athlete," Schwartz said on Aug. 4. "He can do some things. He's explosive. He can run. He can cover. It is a little bit new for him, but it's starting to get toward the end of being new."

Four days later, Kendricks injured his hamstring. Pederson said that he expected him back by Aug. 13 for the first practice after the preseason opener. But he didn't return for another week. Not every individual heals at the same pace, but this wasn't the first time that a soft-tissue injury kept Kendricks out of the lineup longer than most.

He missed three games to a hamstring injury last year and four games to a calf injury the year before. There wasn't another Eagles player with either injury who missed as much time as Kendricks during that span.

But there's a new sheriff in town, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Schwartz, who hasn't been made available to reporters since before the Colts game, is old school. If he thought that Kendricks was milking his hamstring injury, having him play with the second unit - when even third-team running back Kenjon Barner and tight end Trey Burton were inactive - would be an old-school way of sending a message.

Kendricks didn't appear to loaf out there. In fact, he made some nice plays. He dropped Jets tailback Khiry Robinson for a 1-yard loss on first down. He fought off a blocker and ran Robinson out of bounds after just 3 yards. He was in coverage when quarterback Bryce Petty threw incomplete on a failed two-point conversion.

This being Kendricks, there was a time when he appeared out of his gap responsibility and another when a Jets lineman gobbled him up at the second level. But considering the stakes, he played a noble 13 plays.

When the second half opened, Kendricks and the recently acquired Stephen Tulloch emerged from the locker room without pads. When the Eagles signed Tulloch last week, Kendricks gave a mixed response about whether he thought he had to look over his shoulder.

Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, on the other hand, said that he welcomed the pressure. Tulloch is a Schwartz guy. He played five seasons under his tutelage. Schwartz could rotate Tulloch among a four-man crew - including strong-side linebacker Nigel Bradham - but he would risk further damage to Kendricks' psyche.

The Eagles gave Kendricks a four-year contract extension just before last season partly because they feared that playing during the final year of his rookie deal would bother him. But he ended up having arguably his worst season anyway. Kendricks later placed some of the blame on a rotation.

A trade at this point would make little sense. The Eagles aren't deep at linebacker. They would still take a $6 million-plus salary-cap hit. And, frankly, they need Kendricks - at least the one who showed great promise during his first three seasons.

Schwartz's aggressive scheme should play to his athleticism. He should be able to make plays at weakside linebacker, where he will have the freedom to roam. But it remains to be seen how Kendricks will respond to this challenge.

This message wasn't sent in a bottle.

@Jeff_McLane