Pederson: McKelvin Has ‘Really Stood Out’
As minicamp comes to a close and training camp sits six weeks away, one of the most intriguing position battles on the Eagles’ roster is cornerback. While Ron Brooks, Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Jalen Mills and Eric Rowe all seem to have a legitimate chance to earn playing time, one player in particular has separated himself from the pack.
“Leodis has probably been the guy that’s really stood out the most to me,” Doug Pederson said. “He’s a guy that it seems like he’s making plays quite a bit, knocking PBUs and getting his hands on balls and doing the things that you expect from a veteran corner. He’s a smart guy, very athletic and [we’re] excited for the upcoming season with him.”
McKelvin’s teammates praise him for his intelligence and film study, with Rowe saying the presence of McKelvin and Brooks — both of whom played for Jim Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014 — have “dramatically” cut down his learning curve. McKelvin noted that he’s been able to work on his technique more during OTAs and minicamp because of his familiarity with the defense, especially when it comes to his footwork.
By all accounts, the 30-year-old had the best season of his eight-year career under Schwartz, which he attributes to the defensive coordinator’s adroitness in adapting his scheme to his players. This season, Malcolm Jenkins sees McKelvin as a guy who could open up Schwartz’s play-calling options.
“The consistency of his technique is probably the biggest thing you see,” Jenkins said. “If I were to describe his game — it just looks easy to him. His technique is on point snap in and snap out. He hasn’t had many bad snaps, and that’s one of the things you look for. Especially in this defense, we’re trying to evaluate how far we can push the limits as far as letting our corners staying out on an island. To do that, you need consistency, and he’s been the most consistent guy on the outside so far.”
Even if McKelvin capitalizes on his momentum during training camp, the other corner position remains up for grabs. Pederson called Rowe “a tremendous talent” yesterday, but the 23-year-old has very limited experience after starting just six games in his rookie campaign last season.
Rowe’s playing time didn’t increase last year until Carroll broke his fibula on Thanksgiving against the Lions, but Carroll is now healthy again and he practiced with no limitations today. Carroll also noted that he didn’t re-sign with the Eagles just to stand on the sidelines, and he was still able to pick up Schwartz’s scheme while not being on the field.
“It’s just about trying to take those mental reps when you’re not in,” Carroll said. “See who’s lined up, see the call and go through the process of what I might do if I’m out on the field. Where’s the split? What’s my technique going to be? What’s the formation? All of those things in my head I can go through. Because I’ve been out for so long, just to finally get that going again is one thing I need more mentally than it is physically so when I come back out, it’s not one of those things I need to re-learn.”
Brooks, meanwhile, has taken most of the first-team repetitions and has an early advantage because of his experience in the system. He also typically shifts to the slot corner position when he’s replaced on the outside, so he could see significant time even if he doesn’t start.
Mills is another corner who could play in nickel situations, with Pederson mentioning his name first when asked which rookie has impressed him outside of Carson Wentz. Jordan Matthews spoke highly of Mills, too, after minicamp wrapped up today.
“I like Jalen a lot,” Matthews said. “He’ll come up there and get up in my face whenever we’re working plays. If he wants to be physical, he’s going to be physical. He’s not going to back down. Even after some practices, he’ll pull me aside and say, ‘Hey, let’s get some extra releases.’ So you know that willingness to work is also there, too. I like him a lot. I think he’s definitely going to play a lot for us this year.”