By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s much harder now—and in many ways, so much better for Mychal Kendricks this season. The Eagles’ third-year linebacker does a lot more thinking on the field than he’s ever done.

Before, as a rookie, and even last year, Kendricks would wind himself up and then let go, running around the field with a reckless abandon. Now with DeMeco Ryans gone, and with the defense in the hands of Casey Matthews, Kendricks realizes he’s one snap away from the defense being in his hands. It’s why Kendricks is, and has been, taking a stronger role in calling out the defensive switches.

It’s a challenge that will no doubt consume a lot of time on Thursday when the Eagles travel to Dallas for their NFC East showdown.

“I am becoming more of a complete, ‘linebacker,’ and that’s making calls and making checks, getting people aligned,” Kendricks said. “It’s good. It’s been fun. It’s been challenging. I’m learning and growing as a player and it’s benefiting me, and I can’t wait until it’s like clockwork.”

Kendricks had already been handling a good portion of the defensive calls before Ryans went down in Houston with a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Kendricks will need to be on his mental and physical game to stop the Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, and an offensive line that is arguably the NFL’s best.

“In my third year, I’ve gained so much from when I’ve started until now,” Kendricks said. “My first year, we were in a couple of different defenses, and last year, I was learning a new defense under coach [Billy] Davis, so I really on count myself having two years of experience. I’ve learned so much and I’m excited to know what the near-future holds for me.”

Kendricks said he’s been helping rookie linebacker Marcus Smith with his vision of the field, because Kendricks remembers how narrow his vision of an NFL field was his rookie year out of California.

“Marcus is starting where I was, whether you’re a Rookie of the Year candidate or not, your vision and how you see a field is small and it’s something that comes with experience,” Kendricks said. “My vision is a lot better and I’ll still admit I have to see the field far better than I do and still learn things that can help further my game.

“As for Dallas, I’ve played them before. I know what they do. I’m not really that worried about it much. I’m going to go into this thing like I do every year I play Dallas. I’m going to prepare and look at it like every other game. I’ll admit it’s not an ordinary game, but that’s the best way to go about it. You can’t get too high or too low emotionally. You have to attack it evenly. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself. You have to go about it like it’s a normal game. If it’s not broken, and I have a routine, I don’t to get away from my game preparation.

“We’re getting ready to play Dallas and that’s starts up top, mentally. I watched the Dallas-Giants game Sunday night and watching that, seeing some of the things that they do, gives us a little bit of an advantage [in preparation].”

 

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