Going into the 2013 season, it was thought that the transition to Bill Davis' 3-4 scheme would be most beneficial for inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, in particular, as it is the same defense that takes advantage of his rare talents that enabled him to flourish at Cal. After coming out with a boom against Washington on a national stage in Week 1, he struggled a little over the next month or so. However, by October, things started to click and ever since Kendricks has resembled the playmaking blur who garnered a top-50 selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. He only continues to get better and more impactful with each passing game.
"I try to be an impact player every game," Kendricks said. "Sometimes things fall your way, sometimes they run the ball away from you the whole day. You get in there, you play, and if things fall your way, they do. If they don't, they don't. But whenever you get an opportunity to make a play, you have to make it happen. I had an opportunity and things fell my way."
Kendricks is second on the team with 122 total tackles, with two sacks, two interceptions and four passes defended. That second interception came off a tipped pass against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and he leads the NFL with four fumble recoveries. Kendricks is very much a ubiquitous player on the field, with a combination of speed, explosiveness, athleticism, agility and range that few, if any, of his peers can match. His transition back to 3-4 inside linebacker has also rejuvenated him as a blitzer.
"I think that my speed, my agility, my side-to-side movement and my quickness, and the fact that I'm not the biggest (linebacker) allows me to squeeze through gaps that others might not be able to," Kendricks said. "I feel like those are all things that work in my favor. It's been pretty effective."
Kendricks attributes his ascent to finally having a stable coach and scheme, which has enabled him to get comfortable and just react on the field instead of burning a crucial split second thinking about what he's supposed to do.
"That's how things work, usually," Kendricks said. "Whenever you get into a new system, it takes a while to get acclimated into it. The longer you're with someone, the longer you're with a system, the more comfortable you are and the faster you're able to react to do your thing."
Is that split second he gains because of reaction time the difference between making plays and just missing them?
"For sure," Kendricks answered. "Most definitely, that's safe to say."