How the Loss Of Ryans Impacts Kendricks
Mychal Kendricks admitted that he was scared when DeMeco Ryans first went down. The heart of the defense — his mentor – was unable to get off the NRG Stadium turf, and it shook the young linebacker.
But as Ryans got carted off and reality set in that he was not coming back, Kendricks said something triggered inside of him.
“Just natural instincts kicked in. I went over to Casey [Matthews] and I was like, ‘Let’s f***** go, let’s step this s*** up, it’s time to rise to the occasion. Let’s do this damn thing. Let’s get this win for my boy,’” he said.
Kendricks finished with a team-high 12 tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.
The 24-year-old noted that he has always had that in him, but has shown deference to veteran leaders on the team, like Ryans. Perhaps that side of him will come out more over the second half of the season. There is certainly a void that needs to be filled from a leadership and playmaking standpoint, but the coaching staff does not want Kendricks over-extending himself.
“Mychal just has to be himself,” said Chip Kelly. “And I think if Mychal tries to be anything different than himself, that is not the formula for success. The same with Mark [Sanchez] or Andrew Gardner or Matt Tobin or whoever it is. You don’t have to replace the guy and I think if that’s what your mindset is going in, you need to just be yourself, go out and play the football that we know you can play and not worry about all that other stuff. I think when you try to become something else or try to say ‘Hey, DeMeco did it this way so I have to do it that way.’ Mychal has to be Mychal. I think he had a really good game against Houston and if we can get the same Mychal that played against Houston to play against Carolina then we’d be happy with that.”
The plan at linebacker is for the group to share the load. Kendricks will be splitting the play-calling duties with Matthews and Emmanuel Acho depending on the personnel grouping. That’s due in part to the responsibilities of the respective linebacker positions, but also can be looked at as a way to not overload Kendricks.
“Mychal’s role really won’t change in what he’s done when DeMeco was in there, it’s just who he’s in there with that changes. So now Acho and Casey 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 front,” said Billy Davis.
“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.”
Kendricks will likely gain responsibility as his career moves forward. For now, the coaches just want him to continue to do what he’s been doing.
“I feel good, man. I’m not scared. I’m not worried. I’m just going to go out there and play good ball,” he said.
“You’re losing that deep veteran experience [in Ryans] but luckily I’ve been underneath his wing and have learned a couple tricks through him. I plan on using those and plan on really imposing my will on the other team and really letting these other guys know that I have their back, too. We’re in this together.”