Mychal Kendricks was in the midst of a rough patch and in need of a boost back in mid-September when his phone rang.
“I was getting a massage and I picked up…and it was my Pop Warner coach,” Kendricks told Jim Rome last week in New York. “And he just told me, ‘Man, just go out there and own the field like I know you can. Get that pep in your step. When you take the field, know that you own it.’
"It was good for me, man. Every game I went into after that, I just told myself, 'Take the field with confidence. Own this [thing].' "
It's fair to say that Kendricks is still trying to find himself as an NFL player. He is chock-full of talent and has flashed brightly at times, but has been unable to harness his star qualities consistently. In his defense, the degree-of-difficulty has been pretty high. The Cal product joined the Eagles during an organizational low point, when the team all but quit on Andy Reid and the 2012 season. An emotional player, he was told by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to mute his enthusiasm and, being a rookie, followed instructions. It wasn't until this season that Kendricks became his normal, vocal self on game day.
The 23-year-old came into the league just as the Eagles were getting set to push the reboot button, and was forced to learn a brand new scheme this season.
His youth got the better of him along the way. There were times this year when Kendricks would get caught up in personal statistics. If his tackle numbers were down after a half of play, for instance, he would sometimes focus on the numbers instead of letting the game come to him, which led to mistakes.
“He was always in the game, [asking]: ‘How many you got?’ I’m like, ‘Man, let’s go play. We’ll see how it [comes out] at the end of the game,’ " said DeMeco Ryans. "It’s not something you worry about. You go out and do your job and plays will start coming to you. When you try to force things, that’s when it seems like it’s the hardest to make a play.”
Around the time he got the call from his Pop Warner coach, San Diego tight end Antonio Gates had just taken him to school.
"This game can do a lot of things for you, man. It can do a lot of things to you," he said. "And when you're not balling out like you know you can, like you know you should be, yeah, you question yourself. But the confidence is there. I'm in the NFL, I'm here, too. I'm here for a reason. I put my pads on just like the rest of these guys, and that's basically what he was trying to let me know."
Kendricks rebounded nicely. While he may not have been the model of consistency, the former second-round pick was a productive playmaker, finishing with 137 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions and four fumble recoveries. He arguably has as high of a ceiling as anyone on the Eagles defense. It's just a matter of putting it all together.
"I know for a fact that I'm [Pro Bowl] caliber," he said. "No doubt in my mind."
WHAT YOU MISSED
Will the Eagles have a new starting outside linebacker in 2014? We discuss.
From Peter King: "I think they love Chip Kelly as much in year one as they loved Andy Reid in any of his 14 years."
Sheil dives into the Eagles schedule to see if it's as daunting as everyone is making it out to be.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Where will Michael Vick end up? Bill Polian gives his take.
I can see him as a starter in 2014. His most likely suitors will be teams without a QB and looking for a bridge to a young player drafted this year or one they expect to draft in a year or two. Jacksonville could be one spot, but, really, any team that fits that description is a possibility. They won't give him a big contract or a long one, but he is capable of being a starter and buying time to develop the next guy. He could also be a good backup candidate for a team like San Francisco or Seattle because he fits the mold of those offenses pretty well. As a third option, other teams might pursue him as a change-up QB for a different look in games.
Chris Steuber has the Eagles selecting Fresno State wide receiver Davante Adams at No. 22.
Drafting a defensive difference maker with this selection would seem to be the right choice, but the Eagles have to make some decisions at wide receiver. It’s possible that the Eagles could move on from two of their top four receivers, and the need for another perimeter playmaker becomes a major focus. Adams (6-2, 212) has good size, speed and a knack for the big play -- his skill set and what he was asked to do at Fresno State fits well with what Chip Kelly wants in a receiver.
We'll continue our offseason outlook series.