After reading this article about Kenrick (cap tip to dvdvill), I gotta say that I'm starting to get excited about his prospects for this season. I think this is going to be the year that we start to see him begin the process of realizing his potential. Rex seems to have a knack for getting the most out of his DLs, and Dunbar seems like he's a heck of a DL coach. I think this is the year where we'll see if there's a there there. And I think we will.
Admittedly, I'm very much partial to Kenrick. I feel like I discovered him in a way, because literally nobody was talking about before I did, and I talked about him A LOT, and then we actually drafted him!! So yeah, he's my draft baby. Thank/Blame me for him being on our team. And I'll tell you what it was that attracted me to him... 94 tackles. How many 6-4, 350lbs guys do you know that can notch those kind of tackle stats? In any league. If you're logging 90+ tackles, you're moving around out there. Those tackle stats tell me that he was not only making plays around his frame, but he was busting it down the line and tracking guys down field. 350lbs guys just don't log linebacker stats. It just is not something that "normal" 350 pounders do. And the tape confirmed that. Not only was he huge, his athleticism was off the charts. But he was raw as hell.
We knew he was going to need some seasoning when he was drafted, and the lockout did him no favors. He didn't get the chance to go through rookie camp, OTAs, mini camp and all that. Then he had his legal situation hanging over him during last off-season and he had to do some time before camp got started. [Brief interruption to pass on a word of advice: do not grab a baseball bat and attack a 350 lbs man that can karate chop wood into tiny splinters and then let said man punch you in the face. He will probably smash it.] However, now all of that is behind him. He's been through a couple of seasons now, and he knows the system, and he knows how he has to prepare for a season. And he finally can go through a normal off-season and train with a singular focus on football.
One of the ongoing issues for Ellis has been his tendency to raise his pad level. In my very amateur opinion, he does this more often when he has two-gap responsibilities. He tries to read the play and he has a natural inclination to come up a bit. And it doesn't help him that he's kind of tall at around 6-4/6-5. So when he raises, he loses all of his power. When he's allowed to attack gaps, he usually blows them up and fires into the backfield. Hopefully, considering all the chatter we've been hearing about getting back to blitzing, we'll see Kenrick playing with more single gap responsibilities and growing into becoming a more disruptive player going forward. I'm also hopeful that the coaching and experience will take effect, and we'll see him playing with more aggressive hands and better play recognition.