Last season was a miserable one for Mychal Kendricks.
He played only 27 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps, by far a career-low. Every time you spoke to him you could tell he was frustrated, that he felt left out. For the most part, he kept his feelings to himself. But at the beginning of training camp this past summer, he opened up and revealed he had asked the team to trade him.
The Eagles denied it.
And now they have to be glad they did.
The Eagles need Kendricks to replace Jordan Hicks, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
Because he came off the field in nickel situations, Kendricks entered Sunday's win over San Francisco having played only 44 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
That's half as many as he played as a rookie way back in 2012. Now, he's turned back the clock.
After missing last week's win over Washington with a hamstring injury, Kendricks was all over the place against the 49ers. He led the team with seven tackles (six solo) and had a quarterback sack, two QB hits and a key pass breakup. It occurred at the goal line and helped force the 49ers to settle for a field goal attempt, which was blocked.
"I feel like if you're not in there and you're not playing, when you get your chance, you ain't got s--- to lose, so you play free," Kendricks said. "It's a good feeling."
One aspect of his overall game that has been quite obvious this season is his control. His speed is now an asset, not a liability. He's not over-pursuing plays.
"We don't want any MAs (missed assignments)," Kendricks said. "I don't get too many plays, so when I'm in there I try to make the most of it. If that means sacrificing the wow plays to be in the right spot — sometimes players get ahead of themselves to try to make things happen. I'm just letting them come to me."
And he's making them.
"I don't have missed tackles anymore," Kendricks said before correcting himself. "I do. I missed two. They didn't go any further from where I missed. I slowed the guy down, but I definitely could have had two tackles."
It's a sign of his maturity as a person and a player. The Eagles made a sound business decision by not letting him go, and Kendricks has grown into the player the organization always felt he could be.
If he continues to do that, then this defense will be able to withstand the loss of Hicks. Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, making only his second career start, never had a chance. He completed just 17 of 36 passes, served up two interceptions and was sacked four times. If you exclude Beathard's 40 yards rushing, the Eagles' top-ranked rushing defense held San Francisco RBss to just 54 yards on the ground and just 3.7 yards per play.
Asked to describe the mentality of the Birds' D, Kendricks replied, "Kick ass, take names."
Then he looked over at fellow linebacker Nigel Bradham two lockers away and asked him the same question.
"Inflicting pain," Bradham said, prompting Kendricks to reply, "Hell yeah, that's the mentality."
That's the mentality Kendricks has had all season.
NBC Sports Philadelphia's Andy Schwartz contributed to this story.