Mychal Kendricks says that part of his problem is that he just gets too damn excited when he has the chance to crush someone. He was working himself into a lather just talking about it.
“I’m getting there so fast, I’m just wanting to obliterate them, you know what I’m saying, instead of just breaking down and making a sound tackle. Sometimes it’s just me getting over-excited and getting anxious. I’m trying to get that ‘ooh-aah’ instead of just that straight tackle that would keep us in position,” Kendricks said at his locker stall Thursday afternoon.
“When a guy’s back is turned towards you and he is catching the ball and the ball is not there yet, you’re driving and you’re like, ‘I’m going to smack the (pauses) out of him.’ And he sees you barely and he stops and you go [by him]. It’s just about being disciplined and not getting overly-excited, plain and simple.”
The 23-year-old out of Cal was showing signs this summer that suggested he was ready to break out. His performance in the opener against the Redskins only heightened expectations, as Kendricks racked up a team-high 10 tackles, a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits and also recovered a fumble.
However, he took a big step back against San Diego the following week, struggling to keep tight end Antonio Gates in check, and has had his issues since. He leads all inside linebackers in missed tackles with eight. Meanwhile, quarterbacks have connected on 24-of-28 passes thrown in his direction for a completion percentage of 85.7, per Pro Football Focus.
The second-year ‘backer acknowledged that he needs to get better at zone coverage in particular. Man allows you to be more instinctual — you know who you have to cover and you just cover him — whereas zone requires a little more analysis and discipline.
“I think Mychal is like a lot of our players,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “We’re very inconsistent now in applying the techniques and understanding of the overall scheme. So we have days and stretches of plays where all of them are very exciting to watch them as they’re getting it. Then we have these lulls where it’s not where you want it to be, and they’re a little bit out of whack. And I think Mychal just fights through that as we do a lot of our other players.”
Kendricks explained the different adjustments that come with moving to a new scheme.
“I’m making calls,” he said. “We just moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 so you have to know your spacing, know your leverage, know who’s outside you, know where your help is. That kind of changes. We’re allowed to do more with this defense in terms of scheming and rockin’ and rollin’. It’s just little things like that.”
It’s all part of the learning curve that the second-year linebacker is working through, along with many of his teammates.
“We had our offseason to get the gist of [the new defense],” said Kendricks, “but there’s knowing your defense, and knowing your defense versus other schemes, versus other offenses. Everything changes, you know what I’m saying? As a defense we haven’t been through — even our coaches haven’t been through a full NFL season — and seeing those looks that other teams are giving us.”
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