Eagles

Schwartz wants Rodney McLeod to be the 'blur' he was first half of season

Schwartz wants Rodney McLeod to be the 'blur' he was first half of season

They watched the play together, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and safety Rodney McLeod, and that wasn't easy for McLeod, who prides himself on being a tough, hard-hitting, aggressive NFL safety.

“I looked at it and I definitely could have been more aggressive,” McLeod said. “I feel like that’s what this team expects of me.”

McLeod came under tremendous scrutiny for his play on the Ravens’ final touchdown in their 27-26 win over the Eagles Sunday, a 16-yard run by Kenneth Dixon that gave the Ravens a 10-point lead with 11 minutes left.

McLeod appeared to simply backpedal all the way into the end zone without trying to make a play on Dixon.

It looked like he was avoiding contact.

“We had a conversation about it, looked at the film, self-evaluate myself,” McLeod said at his locker on Tuesday. “Certain situations I may be thinking too much, just trying to do what I think is best for the defense.

“I’m the last line of defense most of the time so, you know, just trying to do what I can to get guys on the ground.

“We had a conversation about it and that’s why I appreciate Jim. He’s a great coach. I definitely take coaching well, I’m a coachable guy.”

It wasn’t the first time McLeod’s effort has come into question late this season. It happened on a touchdown in the Bengals loss two weeks ago as well.

Schwartz didn’t defend McLeod’s effort on that Dixon touchdown but he did shed some light on what happened in his eyes.

“Rodney was doing the wrong thing for the right reason,” Schwartz said. “And I say this: He's trying not to allow a big play right there. As a result, we end up giving up big plays. I told him I would rather you shoot your gun. I would rather you take that shot then shoot at chickens and give ground and give ground and hope that you can buy time for other people to make the play.

“There are times that you have to do that.

 It's tough being a middle-of-the-field defender and a run breaks. There's a big difference between being a safety and, I like to tell those guys, being a ‘risky.’ It's a different thing. But you don't want a safety that's ready, fire, aim. And you don't want a safety that's ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, never pull the trigger.

“That's where I told him my opinion was that's where he's gotten to these last couple games. I want him to get back to early in the season where that 23 was a blur everywhere on the field. And you don't want to be risky and you don't want to take chances sometimes when you are the post player, but you've got to pull the trigger when it comes.

“I have enough confidence in him to trust his judgment to pull the trigger.

 Rodney knows big plays have affected us. He's trying not to allow a big play. Sometimes that's the wrong approach to take. And hopefully we can get him back to being the blur on the field that he was first half of the season.”

McLeod, who was selected a second Pro Bowl alternate Tuesday evening, was off to a great start this year.

In the Eagles’ first six games, he averaged 9.2 tackles per game, had three interceptions plus a sack and forced fumble. In the last eight, he’s averaged 6.9 tackles with no interceptios or other impact plays.

McLeod said he doesn’t think he’s been awful the second half of the season. It’s just that when he’s had a bad play, it’s been glaring.

“I think it hasn’t been a great amount of plays,” he said. “I think it’s just a couple plays. … I think I’m still the same player. Just a few plays that you see on film maybe. I know what type of player I need to be for this team.”

As for the Dixon touchdown, McLeod really had no excuses. Just an explanation.

“They ran a flip play to try to slow us down, I recognize it and saw it and just trying to get him on the ground, save us and give us another opportunity to line up and play another snap,” he said.

“And on that I just lost aware of the field, and looking at it on film and looking at the replay, I definitely would have taken a shot and been more aggressive on that play.

“You’ve just got to know when you can take shots and when you can’t. There’s certain times where you can. I think that flip play was one of those times where I probably need to be more overly aggressive when you’re at that point. You’re close to the end zone, what do you have to lose? And just trust your teammates will rally to the ball.

“I practice it a lot, man, take pride in it, and this team expects me to be more aggressive and that’s what I’m going to do.”

McLeod knows that fans have been on him since the Ravens' game, and he said he prides himself on being a physical player and never shying away from contact. The criticism hurts.

“Yeah, I mean, it definitely does,” he said. “But I think it’s just a few plays where looking at it, I’m like, ‘OK, it’s easily fixed.’

“I don’t think it’s something that’s been showing all year. I’m not going to change how I play. Just certain times go ahead and pull that trigger.”

Eagles' Dannell Ellerbe, Will Beatty playing catch-up with new team

usa-dannell-ellerbe-will-beatty.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles' Dannell Ellerbe, Will Beatty playing catch-up with new team

After signing with the Eagles about a week and a half ago, Will Beatty has been working hard to catch up. 

He's learning a new offense, new terminology, new teammates. 

And a new building. 

"I'm still trying to figure out where everything is here," Beatty said. "A lot of the doors here are not labeled, so it's like 'where does this door lead?'"

Eventually, the 32-year-old offensive tackle finds where he's going. For the most part, he just tries to follow his teammates. When he's the only player around, he begins to worry and checks the schedule to make sure he's not missing something. 

Beatty isn't alone. He was brought in last week a day after the Eagles signed veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Both players are veterans over 30. Both players have won a Super Bowl. And both are playing catch-up. 

How has it been going? 

"Really good," head coach Doug Pederson said. "In both cases, picking up the offense with Will and the defense with Dannell. Dannell has probably gotten a couple of reps with our defense in the past couple of weeks. Both of them are doing really, really well."

While Ellerbe has gotten some practice reps, don't expect him to have a role with the defense just yet. Pederson on Friday morning said Ellerbe's role is still to get comfortable with the defense. 

While Jim Schwartz said Ellerbe was going to learn all three linebacker positions, Ellerbe has been focusing more on MIKE and SAM. The former Saint said he likes to learn the entire concept of the defense. The biggest hurdle is learning the new terminology. 

"I've been sitting out since OTAs, so it's been a while," Ellerbe said. "It's like riding a bike. Just repetition."

Both players were inactive against the Cowboys, less than a week after their arrivals. It is yet to be seen if either will have roles down the stretch. 

When Beatty eventually finds his way to the practice field, he has been working with the Eagles' second-team offense, which means he's going against the Eagles' first-team defense every day. That's a good way to shake off some rust. 

For now, second-year player Joe Walker has been playing the MIKE position in the Eagles' base defense. If Ellerbe were to ever get on the field, it would likely be in that spot. But Walker has been playing OK since Jordan Hicks went down. 

During meetings, Beatty pretty much stays quiet when he has questions. He writes down what he doesn't understand and then brings it to offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland afterward so he doesn't slow down the entire group. It's basically like seeing a teacher after class for extra help. 

One of the tough parts about joining a team in the middle of the season is everyone is already settled into a routine. Beatty and Ellerbe are working just to catch up. 

"It's a little different, but would much rather be doing this than anything else," Beatty said. "This is a great organization. Everyone welcomed me with open arms."

Eagles Injury Update: Jake Elliott (concussion) cleared to play vs. Bears

injury-report-eagles.jpg

Eagles Injury Update: Jake Elliott (concussion) cleared to play vs. Bears

After a week of worrying, everyone can finally relax. 

Jake Elliott is going to play on Sunday. 

The Eagles' kicker officially cleared the NFL's concussion protocol on Friday morning, when he was cleared by an independent neurologist. Throughout the week it looked likely that Elliott would be able to play, but it didn't become official until Friday. 

Elliott suffered a concussion against the Cowboys during the first half of Sunday's game at AT&T Stadium. The Eagles needed to finish the game going for two-point conversions and with linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill kicking off. 

"When the hit happened on the opening kickoff, I was a little bit rattled," Elliott said on Friday afternoon. "I had never had a concussion before. That was my first one. I didn't feel too loopy right at the time but as the first quarter went on, it just started to get worse and worse. That final play I was in there, was kind of a little bit of a haze. I decided to go seek someone out after that."

It wasn't until Elliott missed a 34-yarder that he went and got checked out. He said he didn't want to make excuses for the missed kick but "was a little bit out of it" on that play.  

Meanwhile, Beau Allen (knee) and Trey Burton (back) will both be game-time decisions, according to head coach Doug Pederson. Both are listed as questionable. 

Burton's back spasms came from the game on Sunday and he has been dealing with the issue all week. He missed practice on Thursday. If Burton can't play, the Eagles would go into Sunday's game with two tight ends — Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. If Burton is inactive, Celek will likely have an increased role, Pederson said. 

If Allen can't play, it's likely rookie Elijah Qualls will be active for the first time since the Arizona game. Qualls has played just 50 defensive snaps all season.