All eyes were on rookie LB at camp

Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks impressed observers immediately with his speed at the current Eagles minicamp.
Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks impressed observers immediately with his speed at the current Eagles minicamp. (ALEX BRANDON / Associated Press)

At first glance, Mychal Kendricks didn't disappoint.

Posted: May 15, 2012

It's very early, but so far Mychal Kendricks has not disappointed.

Kendricks, bright and brimming with confidence, made an interception on the first day of rookie camp Saturday and followed up Sunday by breaking up another short throw and racing around the edge and bearing down on the quarterback for what would have been a lightning-quick sack, if hitting was allowed.

In other words, he has shown exactly the skills the Eagles hoped they were getting when they drafted the linebacker in the second round. The team believes Kendricks has the speed to cover tight ends, pass-rushing skills to enhance their blitz and perhaps the overall talent to finally solidify the Eagles' ever-changing linebacker lineup.

He won't be handed a job - he'll have to compete with Jamar Chaney - but Kendricks has the most direct path to a starting role of any of this year's draft picks.

"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm the starter or I'm not, they haven't said anything about that, but I'm going to sure try," he said.

The Eagles are eager to see what he has. Kendricks has taken on a heavy work load in camp and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has spent much of the last two days at his side and in his ear.

The 2011 Pac-12 defensive player of the year at California, Kendricks followed up by running a 4.47 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the fastest time for a linebacker since 2008.

That speed helps him run with tight ends, as he did Saturday in racing downfield with Brett Brackett and picking off a Nick Foles deep ball.

"That's just doing my job," Kendricks said. "That's not anything out of the norm for me, or anything special, that's what I'm supposed to do and that's what I'm going to do."

Of course, covering Brackett, an undrafted free agent entering his second season, is far different than going up against Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham, tight ends all on the Eagles schedule. While Kendricks has speed, some question if he has enough size. He is listed at 5-foot-11.

"Doesn't matter," he said defiantly when asked about his height. "I'm going to have to go out there and [cover]. If I do it, I do it. If I don't, I'll probably get cut. Everything's going to handle itself . . . I don't really stress about it, and I don't think you guys should, either."

Kendricks wore an odd number for a linebacker in college, 30. Partly that was out of respect for his favorite player, Broncos running back Terrell Davis, and partly it was for his own playing style.

"I could cover, so I chose a safeties' number," he said.

Now Kendricks is wearing 95 because all of the Eagles' 50's are taken.

"Everyone's talking about my size, so maybe I should get a big number," Kendricks said with a smile. "Ninety-five is usually a big guy, so that would be something new, seeing a 95 out there covering."

Going up against mostly undrafted free agents and other rookies, Kendricks should stand out. It's far too early to reach conclusions, but at the very least his physical skills are evident.

The defense has focused on pass coverage so far, but Kendricks also has experience attacking quarterbacks. As a junior, he blitzed heavily and came away with 81/2 sacks.

Kendricks, from Fresno, Calif., is the second member of his family to come through the Eagles organization. His father, Marv, was a running back who played in the World and Canadian football leagues and went to an Eagles training camp as a free agent in 1976. He didn't make the team, but still remains in touch with former coach Dick Vermeil, the younger Kendricks said.

The Eagles hope this Kendricks has a far longer stay. He's off to a strong start.

Extra Points: Defensive end Maurice Fountain left practice on a cart after going down while pass rushing. Trainers were examining his leg and coaches consoled him.


There was no immediate update. . . . The camp concludes with a practice Monday morning.


Contact Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.

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