Each player had a full offseason to work with his position coach. There were no holdouts. Multiple stars received offseason contract extensions. There are no free agent acquisitions looking for a one-year stint to improve their career. Even the incompetent defensive coordinator has had an offseason–his first, actually–to learn the x’s and o’s of coaching an NFL defense.
The purpose of this upcoming series is to rank the 10 most players to the 2012 Eagles. These players were chosen for a number of reasons. Obviously, they are all talented starters, but it’s also worth looking at the backup. If a player goes down for the year in week three, who will step up and perform?
As all of my lists go, this one will begin at the bottom and work its way to the top. Click here to see my number 10 player.
9. Mychal Kendricks
With Andy Reid as head coach, Eagles fans know two things: They’re going to have a competitive team, but linebacker will be a position of weakness. In some years, it was three positions of weakness.
Last year was probably the worst linebackers have played under the Reid era.
The Eagles began the season with Jamar Chaney at strongside linebacker, Casey Matthews at middle linebacker and Moise Fokou at weakside linebacker. They ended the year with Akeem Jordan at strongside linebacker, Brian Rolle at middle linebacker and Jamar Chaney at weakside linebacker.
It was a complete disaster. None of the players proved to be the answer and Keenan Clayton was the only linebacker on the roster who did not make at least one start.
Heading into the 2012 season, it became common knowledge that the Eagles would make at least move for a linebacker. They made two. They traded for DeMeco Ryans, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Houston Texans, and they drafted linebacker Mychal Kendricks in the second round.
Kendricks intrigued the Eagles because of his speed. In fact, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash by a linebacker in 12 years, and he was the fastest player at the draft, excluding (obviously) running backs, wide receivers, cornerbacks and safeties.
That makes him an absolute perfect fit for the Eagles, who run the wide-nine defense and desperately need a fast linebacker who can make tackles. He is the complete opposite of Casey Matthews.
From the first day of Organized Team Activities, Kendricks was named the starting strongside linebacker. He thrived at the position during the preseason and was easily the team’s best linebacker during the four preseason games.
I’ve already heard some experts talking about him as a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, which would be tremendous for the Eagles.
Even if he has a disappointing season, he will be better than Rolle, Chaney, Jordan, Matthews and Fokou. That’s a guarantee.
I see Kendricks finishing the season with about 80 to 90 tackles. Compare that to Rolle, who collected 40 tackles in 13 games, or Fokou, who picked up 11 tackles in seven starts.
Expect to see this guy turn into the best linebacker Reid has ever drafted. Then again, he’d only have to beat out Stewart Bradley, who was here for four seasons, two of which were productive.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.