THERE CERTAINLY were moments last season for Mychal Kendricks, flashes of the play the Eagles envisioned when they drafted him in the second round out of Cal. But as a rookie on a bad defense, Kendricks never quite became a consistent force.
Monday night at Washington, Kendricks was all over the field, leading an aggressive defensive effort against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. The Eagles' D was far from perfect - we didn't just imagine all those preseason coverage issues, RGIII exploited them late in the game - but the defense forced three turnovers and tallied a safety.
Kendricks got to blitz a little, something he didn't do as a rookie. Now an inside linebacker in a 3-4, Kendricks, formerly a strongside 'backer in a 4-3, led the Eagles with 10 tackles and recovered an early Alfred Morris fumble that was forced by Trent Cole.
As the Eagles began preparations for Sunday's visit from the San Diego Chargers, Kendricks and other defensive players reflected on what it was like to be proud of a defensive effort, something that rarely happened in the second half of 2012.
"It feels good, especially when people are making plays - big plays, at that - in clutch situations," Kendricks said. "It gives you hope, you know what I mean? It lets you know that the work we've been been putting in, it's going for something."
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis, who last week didn't sound terribly confident about what he expected to see at Washington, seemed greatly encouraged when he met with reporters yesterday.
"It was a great effort and a great performance by the defense," Davis said. "The plan going in was to take care of the running game, which is really what they're built off of, and I thought the guys did an excellent job of executing the plan. Now, within that were lots of mistakes and technique errors and things we need to work on and must improve.
"The outside 'backers did a great job of setting the edges and keeping the ball from getting outside, and the inside defensive linemen and 'backers and safeties really were gap-sound."
Davis said "anybody can be a blitzer" in the Eagles' scheme, "either through an active call or a check."
Asked about Kendricks as a blitzer, Davis said: "You saw the other night, the burst he has in his pressures, and his knack for it is very exciting."
Why didn't either Juan Castillo, fired during the bye week last year, or successor Todd Bowles do more with Kendricks blitzing?
"I think the intentions were for me to do that, but we never got around to it," Kendricks said.
"It's exciting to know that I'm going to be freed up" when Davis puts Kendricks blitzes in the game plan, he said. "It lets me know he has full confidence in us to get there," but "just as many times as he installs a plan for me to go, there might be a week when I don't."
Kendricks said he has learned a lot playing with fellow inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the former Houston Texan who has worked in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes.
"I feel I've come a long way," Kendricks said. "It's a blessing to have a great, great, great friend and a great player-coach in DeMeco Ryans. That guy is something else."
Ryans said "we all help each other out," and that his main function with Kendricks is to serve as an interpreter, simplifying concepts.
"Everything the coaches give us, I try to just give it to him in the simplest form, so we go out and play fast and just have fun out there together," Ryans said. "Mychal's a great player. He's made a tremendous jump from Year 1 to Year 2 . . . seeing everything around him, knowing what other guys are doing, he's just doing a much better job with that."
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers told a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters yesterday that he noticed Ryans and Kendricks when he watched tape of the opener. "Their linebackers are very active. Ninety-five [Kendricks] and 59 [Ryans] are football players," he said.
Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Davis' defense "created a lot of turnovers the other night. They were running to the football, flying around, they play with great energy."
Kendricks would have preferred the Redskins not have scored 20 points in a row in the second half to make the game close.
"I feel like we kind of got lackadaisical," he said, "kind of felt the game was ours, and we kind of played it safe - 'If we just keep 'em at this rate, we'll win the game' . . . We let up a little bit and they came back, and we had a little scare, but we held on. And that was good."
Corner Bradley Fletcher is day-to-day after suffering a concussion Monday, the Eagles said. He did not practice yesterday . . . Tackle Dennis Kelly, recovering from back surgery, was a partial practice participant. He said he hasn't been cleared for contact . . . Running back Chris Polk was asked about his swooping tackle, when he dropped Redskins kickoff returner Chris Thompson on the Washington 9. "I held on for dear life. Thank God he went down, because I'm not used to tackling," Polk said. "It's something I'm working on . . . It's definitely a rush, running down there like your hair's on fire and just making plays. There's no other feeling like that" . . . Reporters aren't allowed to watch full-team periods in practice, but apparently backup QB Nick Foles gets a few reps every day with the first-team offense, in case he has to play. Rookie Matt Barkley said he works pretty much exclusively with the scout team.