There’s a reason it’s important to watch tape – it’s the only way you can give a truly informed opinion on a player. For example, if I didn’t watch almost every snap Lance Kendricks played last season I would never have known the newest Green Bay Packer is such an effective run blocker. In fact, it’s the strength of his game.
Kendricks, who signed a 2-year deal worth $4 million last week, isn’t the biggest tight end in the NFL, but he’s tenacious at the point of attack and a lot stronger than he looks. In the video below, watch him get movement against 300-pound rookie defensive lineman Adolphus Washington. It’s the type of play I saw over and over again on a weekly basis.
Fans who only remember Kendricks from his days at the University of Wisconsin – not to mention “experts” who are simply too lazy to watch tape – are going to be very surprised to see him play next season. He’s so much stronger now than he was then, and he’s really worked at becoming a very good blocker.
Here’s another example of Kendricks getting the job done. This time the opponent is veteran Leger Douzable. The only reason this didn’t turn into a bigger run was because Zach Brown made a terrific play to drag down Todd Gurley (OK, I admit this is also a gratuitous plug for my favorite free agent inside linebacker).
Kendricks isn’t quite as good in pass protection, but he’s probably a little better than Martellus Bennett and he’s definitely a lot better than Richard Rodgers – the other two tight ends on the roster. He has quick feet, but his lack of bulk and short arms can be a problem at times. What’s never a problem, however, is effort.
And, oh yeah, Kendricks isn’t exactly Bubba Franks Jr. He can also do a little of this when used as a receiver:
Kendricks isn’t the fastest tight end in the world, but he’s fluid enough into and out of his cuts to get separation on short passes and just athletic enough to make plays down the seam once in a while. And since he sometimes struggles to get off the line of scrimmage, it might be a good idea for Mike McCarthy to line him up in the backfield on occasion – something the coach has done often in the past with his tight ends.
So why was Kendricks released by the Rams and then signed to such a cheap contract by general manager Ted Thompson? Well, one reason is the unusual depth at the tight end position in the upcoming draft. Another reason is his tendency to drop passes. In fact, his 6 drops last season were more than the combined total of Bennett, Rodgers and former Packer Jared Cook. And that’s been an issue his entire career.
All in all, this is a great signing for Green Bay. While I haven’t studied every backup tight end in the league, I can’t imagine there are too many that are better than Kendricks. And I’m pretty sure there are none that are a bigger bargain. At $2 million a season, the 29-year-old is making a third of what the Bears are paying Dion Sims and the Colts are paying Jack Doyle, and less than half of what the Giants are paying Rhett Ellison.
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