Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks hasn't been fazed by the pressure of starting immediately for the Eagles.
It took, of all things, an insect to throw Kendricks off his game.
During Sunday morning's walk thru, Kendricks saw a locust coming at him and he swatted it away as if it were an offensive lineman's hand. After practice, Kendricks freaked out when he heard the unmistakable buzz of the locust during an interview with reporters.
"I'm from the city," said the Fresno, Calif. native. "This is the country out here."
Kendricks made his preseason debut Thursday against the Steelers. He recorded five tackles, which tied for the team lead, and two of them were for a loss. Kendricks worked in as the starting strongside linebacker as he has throughout the entire offseason. He also played first-team nickel alongside DeMeco Ryans, which is something Kendricks has done off and on throughout Training Camp.
"Mychal is relentless. You saw some of the big-play ability," defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said on Sunday. "It is hard for the young guys because we are really not game planning. The day before we say here's Pittsburgh and here is what we are going to do. Especially for young guys like that it is tough but he came through. He made some big plays which he is capable of doing."
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, Kendricks was tested on the first third down of the game against the Steelers. Kendricks made the tackle on David Johnson, but not before the tight end made the first down. On the Steelers' second series, Kendricks did a great job snuffing out a short pass to Jonathan Dwyer and took the running back down for a 2-yard loss. Four plays later, Kendricks stuffed running back Baron Batch after a short gain.
"I think I did all right. I can do better. It was my first game. I didn't know what to expect," Kendricks said. "Now, I can base everything off of that and go from there."
"He got better as time went on with it, but again, like any rookie, there are small things that he's got to continue to work on," head coach Andy Reid said. "But he had the right attitude. When you talk about blocking and getting off blocks and tackling, those aren't attitudes; that's not attitudes, that's taking the angle."
Neither Reid nor Kendricks would state whether the rookie's move into the first-team nickel spot was a permanent one. Kendricks did come away from Thursday's game knowing that he can play in the NFL.
"It's definitely faster, but I felt good," Kendricks said. "I felt natural. It's definitely faster than college, but not as fast as I expected it to be.
"I definitely feel I can play in this league. A lot of it is knowing what's going to happen before it happens."
It's too bad that Kendricks can't see into the future like fellow Cal alum DeSean Jackson. At the very least, he could figure out what to do about those locusts.
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