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Eagles Film Review: Rodney McLeod has been sorely missed

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Eagles Film Review: Rodney McLeod has been sorely missed

But for two plays, the Eagles' defense has played stellar in 2017. And the two big plays the Eagles' defense has surrendered this season occurred at least in part because free safety Rodney McLeod was out of the lineup.

McLeod is set to return in Week 4 after a missing a game-and-a-half with a hamstring injury, and not a moment too soon. His replacement was largely to blame for both a 53-yard touchdown run by Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt and 77-yard touchdown reception by Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd.

Those just happen to be by far the two biggest scoring plays against the Eagles' defense so far this season — and some real backbreakers at that.

Let’s jump back to Hunt’s run in Week 2, already in progress. Obviously, one look at this frame can tell you this was going to be trouble from the start. Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks loses track of the football, and gap integrity along with it, leaving the middle of the football field wide open.

McLeod’s replacement — Corey Graham in this case, at the top of the screen — becomes the last line of defense.

Here is the precise moment Hunt begins to make his move — a simple cut to the left. It’s unfair how much room the ball carrier has to work with, but he’s also going to catch Graham a little flat-footed here.

Does McLeod definitely make this tackle? No. Hunt has been sensational, with at least one rushing attempt of 50 yards more in each of his first three NFL games. This is a difficult spot for just about anybody.

But McLeod is 27 years old and generally does a solid job at free safety. Graham is a 32-year-old journeyman whose move from cornerback to safety a few seasons ago was at least in part the result of his losing a step.

The point here isn’t to bag on Graham, but to merely point out McLeod may have come up with this stop. Instead, the Chiefs took a 13-10 lead in the third quarter, and the Eagles were never ahead again.

A case could be made Hunt scores regardless. Shepherd’s touchdown this past Sunday, on the other hand, was a disaster brought about almost entirely by a player in an unfamiliar role.

Two hamstring injuries later, the Eagles are down to Chris Maragos at free safety. A special teams ace, Maragos lines up on defense so infrequently, he saw a grand total of 19 snaps during the preseason. Now, there he is on the far right side of the frame, with the receiver coming on the slant.

Shepherd beats Patrick Robinson in man coverage, and Giants quarterback Eli Manning fits a perfect ball between the linebackers in zone. There’s really not much the Eagles can do about this except tackle the receiver and minimize the damage.

Except not only does Maragos miss the tackle, but he also barrels right into Robinson, knocking the one person trailing Shepherd out of the play as well. Rather than hold the Giants to a first down and force them to drive the field, the Eagles give them the touchdown and a 21-14 fourth-quarter lead in one chunk play.

Again, the point here is not to rip Maragos, who did an otherwise solid job. However, this is an example of a play McLeod almost certainly makes, if for no other reason than he has far more experience and this is a common play free safeties are asked to make all the time.

McLeod isn’t quite a star himself, but he’s a good to very good player. Clearly, the Eagles missed him the last few weeks, and now that he’s back, maybe these huge plays over the middle will become much more infrequent.

Watch Eagles roast Jay Ajayi after 71-yard run for getting caught

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Watch Eagles roast Jay Ajayi after 71-yard run for getting caught

It's not everyday you see an Eagles player take the ball and run for 71 yards. So Philadelphia fans understandably went bonkers when Jay Ajayi did just that in the Birds' win over the Cowboys on Sunday.

It's also not that frequent that you see a dude get chased down from behind on such a play.

Sadly, the latter happened to Ajayi and his teammates let him hear it on the sidelines after. The fantastic Inside the NFL gave us an up-close look at the roasting.

You almost feel bad for Ajayi, like Kenjon Barner is laying it on a little too thick.

"You slow as $#@!," one player tells him.

"They're gonna lower my speed on Madden," Ajayi says.

Chip Kelly is going back where he belongs

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USA Today Images

Chip Kelly is going back where he belongs

After spending the year out of football, former Eagles coach Chip Kelly is returning to the sideline — and might be aligning with ex-Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman in the process.

According to reports, Kelly is expected to accept a head coaching job at one of two college football programs. The decision is down to Florida and UCLA, and he is rumored to have already turned away other high-profile programs such as Nebraska and Tennessee.

UCLA may be Kelly's most likely landing spot at this point, with alumnus Aikman putting on a "full-court press," says ESPN's Mark Schlabach, and Florida supposedly wanting an answer ASAP.

Wherever Kelly winds up going, that should end his unsuccessful foray into the NFL once and for all. Consider this an obituary of sorts.

The move will cement Kelly as a "college coach," if his pro tenure hadn't accomplished that already. After guiding the Eagles to the playoffs and being named Coach of the Year in his first season, he missed the postseason the next two years and was fired. Kelly got the hook again after one miserable season with the 49ers, bottoming out with a 2-14 record.

There are no shortage of excuses for why Kelly flamed out in the NFL. Lack of talent — specifically under center — was certainly a factor, though his failed stint as the chief talent evaluator in his final season with the Eagles certainly contributed to that.

The simple truth is not everything that works in college translates at the next level, and Kelly never adjusted.

Kelly only turns 54 this week, so a return to the professional ranks years down the road isn't completely out of the question. After his last two trainwreck seasons in the league, it's difficult to imagine what an organization would still see.

Employing schemes that aren't suited to the team's personnel, calling the same 10 to 15 plays every game, eliminating the quarterback's ability to call an audible or even something as small as never using a snap count may work at university. Those concepts are fundamentally opposed to what has been successful in the NFL.

Honestly, it's kind of too bad. The Eagles could use that easy W on the schedule periodically.

Perhaps the Eagles should just be grateful to have survived Kelly's radical changes without overhauling the entire roster again, and somehow coming out better off for everything. After releasing DeSean Jackson, trading away LeSean McCoy, trading for Sam Bradford, and spending huge sums of money on the likes of DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell -- to name a few, and all in the span of a year -- the franchise easily could've wound up in the tank.

There's no denying Kelly looked like a genius while at Oregon, racking up 46-7 record and three top-five finishes in four seasons as head coach. Yet like so many college coaches before him, and many bound to come after, he was never destined for sustained success in the NFL.