Eagles Wake-Up Call: McLeod’s Path To Philly
It was “very hard,” Rodney McLeod says, to leave the Rams. He never missed a game in four seasons after St. Louis signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and when his contract was up this offseason, he thought he’d continue his career in the city that gave him his first opportunity to play in the NFL.
“I thought I was going to be a Ram for a long time. That’s what I was told throughout the whole process,” McLeod said. “Things happen and that’s part of this business and this league we’re in. Change happens, but it doesn’t mean change is always bad. It’s just about what I do with that change here.”
McLeod, who the Eagles signed to a five-year, $37 million deal in March (including $17 million guaranteed), reportedly received interest from the Giants and Ravens as well. But four years ago, when 253 prospects were drafted, McLeod wasn’t one of them. He says now that teams were uncertain about what position he’d play and many didn’t think he was a “true corner.”
During his rookie year, McLeod started on all four special teams units. He leaned on two veteran defensive backs to shorten his learning curve, including former Eagle Quintin Mikell, who also entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
“In my mind, if I didn’t make a play each game, then what am I here for?” he said. “They could just find somebody else to do what I’m doing.”
McLeod forced at least four turnovers in each of the last three seasons, and he developed a reputation as a hard-hitting deep safety who has a lot of range. In Philadelphia, however, it’s unclear what his role will be.
In the Eagles’ early OTAs, he and Malcolm Jenkins have taken on similar responsibilities. McLeod calls them “very interchangeable,” citing how they both have corner backgrounds and can cover tight ends. He also mentioned, however, that Jenkins likes playing closer to the line of scrimmage, and that he has “no feel at all” about how they’ll be deployed.
McLeod often picks Jenkins’ brain on the sideline regarding the intricacies of reading quarterbacks, while the defensive backs as a whole lean on Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin to help them learn Jim Schwartz’s scheme. McKelvin has also been the player who has stood out to McLeod early on.
“From the first snap to the most recent snap, the guy is exact in his breaks,” McLeod said. “Smart guy, a vocal guy in the film room as well in teaching the younger guys about techniques and different things like that. I appreciate his game.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles signed defensive tackle Derrick Lott and released punter Ryan Quigley.
Mailbag: Which Eagle will get the biggest boost in playing time in 2016?
Tim explains how Malcolm Jenkins is the perfect example of why scheme fit matters.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles are heavily invested in the offensive line, writes Paul Domowitch of the Daily News.
Currently, the Eagles have $32.55 million, or 21.3 percent of their total cap space, committed to their offensive line this season. That’s the third-highest cap total in the league, behind only Minnesota ($39.6M) and Oakland ($37.5M), according to salary bookkeeper spotrac.com.
Their five projected season-opening starters – tackles Jason Peters ($9.73M) and Lane Johnson ($8.13M), center Jason Kelce ($5.2M) and guards Brandon Brooks ($3.2M) and Allen Barbre ($1.95M) – have a cumulative cap cost of $28.21 million.
The closest to that in the NFC East is Washington at $21 million. Dallas is third at $17.5 million and the Giants fourth at a puny $11.2 million.
None of the four teams that reached the AFC and NFC championship games last season has a 2016 cap number higher than $21.5 million (Arizona) for its five projected offensive-line starters.
CSN Philly’s Dave Zangaro lists some questions for Jim Schwartz, who will address the media for the first time in months today.
Who are the starting corners?
While starters in the front seven and at the safety position are pretty-well defined, the corner positions are a little hazier. The presumed starters before OTAs were probably Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe outside, with perhaps Leodis McKelvin in the slot.
But last week at OTAs, with Carroll not able to practice fully, McKelvin and Ron Brooks worked with the first-team defense and Rowe was on the field in nickel situations, which moved Brooks inside. Otherwise, Rowe worked with the second unit. Now, it’s still early, and McKelvin and Brooks know Schwartz’s defense from their time in Buffalo, but who will start once the season comes around?
The Eagles actually have some decent depth at cornerback, with Carroll, Rowe, McKelvin, Brooks, JaCorey Shepherd, Jaylen Watkins and Jalen Mills. But it’s still unclear how all of those guys will shake out and who will even make the team.
Practice begins at 10:50, while Jim Schwartz speaks at 12:45.