Why Isn’t Kendricks Making All the Calls?

When discussing DeMeco Ryans, Eagles coaches have always mentioned his value in getting the defense lined up before the snap.

For every game since the start of the 2013 season, Ryans had served as an extension of Billy Davis on the field. He watched film, he studied, and everyone on that side of the ball trusted him. Ryans had the helmet with the headset that connected to Davis, and the process went smoothly on a weekly basis.

But with the Eagles’ leader sidelined due to an Achilles’ injury, the coaches now have to come up with a new plan for who will make the calls. Mychal Kendricks is the only three-down inside linebacker on the roster, but he’s not going to take over full play-calling duties.

“Mychal’s role really won’t change with what he’s done when DeMeco’s in there,” Davis said. “It’s just who’s he in there with that changes, so now [Emmanuel] Acho and Casey [Matthews] will move over to DeMeco’s role, and with the MIKE linebacker comes making the calls and setting the defenses. So nothing will change for Mychal Kendricks in that role. When we get to nickel and dime, now Mychal will take more of a vocal role in setting the fronts. So we’ve got small boxes for everybody, and that’s kind of the way we’ve had success in replacing guys. Don’t ask any one person to do everything DeMeco did. Ask a couple to do a small part and really master that small part.”

When the Eagles are in their base defense, Matthews or Acho will replace Ryans at the MIKE spot and make the calls. When they are in nickel, Marcus Smith II will likely line up alongside Kendricks, and Kendricks will make the calls.

Look for the Eagles to continue to play a lot of dime with Nolan Carroll II joining Kendricks as a pseudo-inside linebacker.

“Those guys are there learning those positions, the MIKE, the WILL when I was down,” said Kendricks. “Those guys are those types of players where they’re learning both positions, opposed to me and DeMeco [who] have been selected to just learn our specific positions. But needless to say, we all know each other’s positions. We all know what needs to be done. We all can make the calls. But only one person can make calls in the game. That way there’s no confusion. We’re never wrong in any call that we make, but we don’t want two guys making two different calls at one time.”

In other words, Kendricks hasn’t learned the MIKE spot. As backups, Matthews and Acho have.

“We have to make the calls just so Mychal’s responsibility and Mychal’s role doesn’t have to change too much,” Acho said. “He’s already played at a very high level when he came back last game and did very well. So we want to make sure that Mychal can stay within his role. So Casey and I will make the calls, make the adjustments from aligning the front, getting everybody set. And that I think fits to our strengths.”

Added Davis: “He’s not the MIKE position. The MIKE position is the position that makes the call. And basically in the nickel and dime, he moves to the MIKE linebacker spot. So on first and second down, he’s the WILL. The WILL isn’t our play-caller. The MIKE is. So Acho and Casey and those guys go in and they make those calls. When we go to nickel, he moves over to the MIKE and is now the primary caller. So it’s the MIKE position that sets the front, and that’s how that works.”

There’s no doubt that it’s a more complex situation than it was when Ryans was healthy. But these are the cards the Eagles have been dealt. On Monday night against the Panthers, they’ll get a chance to see what works and what doesn’t.