Eagles Wake-Up Call: McLeod’s Mentality
Rodney McLeod was searching for answers, but he didn’t quite know where to find them. His play has a distinctive style, but explaining the origin of it is one thing the rangy safety hasn’t yet been able to reach.
Although McLeod is versatile, or “interchangeable” between the safety spots as he calls it, he fits Jim Schwartz’s scheme well because of his aggressiveness. It’s a football trait he’s had, he said, since his teenage years.
But perhaps it goes back further than that, and it’s something he’s had since birth.
“I don’t know. Maybe my parents? Mom and Dad?” McLeod wondered aloud at his introductory press conference yesterday.
That mentality has transformed McLeod from an undrafted free agent to a 25-year-old with a 5-year, $37 million deal. Although 19 safeties were selected in the 2012 draft, only four NFL safeties currently have more guaranteed money in their contracts, per Spotrac.
As is the gamble with any free agent signing, it’s impossible to say with certainty how McLeod will perform in Philadelphia. But we do know he’s durable — he played in all 64 of the Rams’ games the last four seasons since he entered the NFL — and although he was primarily a free safety over the top, he can also play down low in the box.
But again, it seems to be his mentality that separates him.
“When I get out on the field, I’m just a different guy, honestly, than I am off the field,” McLeod said. “Just my physicality, I’m able to be fearless out there. Even though my size — a lot of people wouldn’t say I’m that big, but I just go out there and be fearless, and try to make plays on the ball.”
McLeod’s hit on Emmanuel Sanders in 2014 is likely the most well-known example of what he tried to put into words. Lined up 23 yards off of the ball, McLeod quickly saw Peyton Manning loft up a deep ball down the right sideline, and the safety went into attack mode.
Instead of trying to intercept the pass, McLeod opted to take out Sanders and ensure he couldn’t complete the catch without taking a big hit. McLeod gave Sanders a concussion and was penalized for unnecessary roughness against a defenseless receiver, which led Sanders to say the safety’s intentions should have been to go for the ball and not to “deliver a blow.”
But the NFL decided against fining McLeod, and the league declared it to be a clean hit. Still, the safety looks at it as a lesson as officials continue the balancing act of making football safer while not handcuffing players.
“It’s so hard nowadays. The game is so fast; you try to just do the best you can to protect yourself and others,” McLeod said. “That’s what I try to do: be legal, but make my presence felt.”
McLeod, who forced three fumbles in 2015, reportedly had multiple other suitors in free agency, including the Giants and Ravens. But a big reason he chose the Eagles, he said, was Malcolm Jenkins. McLeod noted that he’s never had the chance to learn from a Pro Bowl safety like Jenkins.
That benefited the Eagles, who determined safety was one position they could find value at in free agency. They also looked at where current starting safeties were drafted, and considered this year’s rookie class, before deciding they could find a match in the open market.
“That guy, when you talk about what you’re looking for from the safety position, he really checks all the boxes,” Howie Roseman said. “Really feel fortunate to be able to get a guy of that caliber and team him with Malcolm. Really feel good about that position going forward.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Howie Roseman explains the importance of picking eighth in the draft.
“Sam Bradford is the No. 1, Chase Daniel is the No. 2, and we’re working on the No. 3.” Doug Pederson on his quarterbacks.
“The Eagles’s sell-off of Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins was shrewd.” What they’re saying.
Open thread: The biggest news and notes from the second day of free agency.
T-Mac takes a look at how the Eagles’ new pieces fit.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Inquirer’s Mike Sielski dives into the bond between Doug Pederson and Chase Daniel.
“We have a very special relationship,” Daniel said.
That relationship developed over their three years together with the Kansas City Chiefs – Pederson as the offensive coordinator under Andy Reid, Daniel as the No. 2 quarterback behind Alex Smith. And it was the primary reason that the Eagles and Daniel agreed Wednesday to a three-year contract that could be worth up to $21 million.
In a market in which the demand for quarterbacks is so high that Daniel, whose entire NFL career comprises two starts and 77 pass attempts, had offers to be a starter, the Eagles were willing to guarantee him $12 million for Daniel’s particular set of skills. The promise is that he will provide healthy competition for Sam Bradford and a facile football mind to help Bradford master Pederson’s offensive system, and that promise is based on Daniel’s friendship with Pederson, on their mutual respect and implicit trust.
Howie Roseman recounts how the Eagles’ trades happened, writes Les Bowen of the Daily News.
“I think we were fortunate at the combine because our suites were two doors down,” said Roseman, restored to his role in charge of personnel when the Eagles fired Chip Kelly. “We’d kind of talk about positions of need and what we were looking to do.
“Some positions they were looking for in free agency, that they were concerned whether they’d be able to find, we felt like we had some depth there, and over the course of time, it worked out.”
Ostensibly, the combine is for watching college prospects run drills. But it’s actually the league’s annual convention, and Roseman tried to use that fact to the Eagles’ benefit.
We’ll take a closer look at the Eagles’ options at No. 8.