After missing last year's playoff run, Rodney McLeod savoring every moment

After missing last year's playoff run, Rodney McLeod savoring every moment

If there’s one lesson Rodney McLeod took from the ACL injury that ended his 2018 season early, it’s to never take any part of the game for granted. 

As McLeod gets ready for this playoff run, he’s savoring every moment. 

“Opportunities like this don’t come often,” McLeod said Thursday. “I feel like it took me a while to get to the playoffs and now I’m able to get back coming off the injury. Looking forward to it. Want to take full advantage of the opportunity and not take it for granted. Give it everything I got.”

McLeod, 29, didn’t get to the playoffs until his sixth season in the NFL. When he finally did, he was a big part of the run to Super Bowl LII. 

But last year, he tore his ACL in the third game of the season and was forced to watch the rest of the season, including the improbable playoff run to Chicago and New Orleans. 

It was the first serious injury of his career and it taught him something important. 

Any play, it can be taken away from you,” McLeod said. “It put things in perspective for me. I feel like I always play the game with a lot of passion and energy. At the end of the day, I think it does put things in perspective.”

Coming off his ACL tear, McLeod has been playing at a high level this season. Not only has he started all 16 games, he’s missed just two of 1,034 defensive snaps on the year. 

As the Eagles’ free safety, McLeod is a calming presence for a secondary that, for the second straight season, had been decimated by injury at the cornerback position. And having McLeod on the field allows Jim Schwartz to take advantage of Malcolm Jenkins’ versatility, playing him all over the field and sending him on more blitzes than last year. 

“He's such a consistent player for us and again, he just gives us such a sense of calm on the field because he's such a good communicator,” Schwartz said. “He’s certainly a valuable part of our team.”

This past offseason, McLeod agreed to restructure his contract, taking a pay cut to keep him in Philly for 2019. After this season, McLeod will become an unrestricted free agent. But it’s no surprise McLeod wanted to stay here; he’s invested a lot in this franchise. 

Even last year, when he was injured, he was still a huge part of the team. McLeod was in every meeting, at every game. He was a mentor, a sounding board and a hype man. It was McLeod who would pump up the defensive backs in the tunnel before every key game down the stretch. 

“I think just me being one of the leaders on this team, I felt like it was just part of my duty and role at that time,” McLeod said. “I wasn’t able to be out there with the team and contribute. But what I could do was motivate some guys, encourage some dudes and shed a little light. I felt like that was my role last year and that’s what I did to help these guys out.”

That support throughout last season was meaningful to his teammates, especially Avonte Maddox. Then a rookie, Maddox filled in for McLeod for a good portion of the season as a free safety. 

Maddox said it meant a lot to have McLeod guiding him through a new position through every turn last season. 

But how much does it mean to have McLeod back on the field this year? 

“A lot more,” Maddox said with a smile. 

It means an awful lot to McLeod too. And he’s going to enjoy every minute of it. 

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Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a pretty ambiguous title.

The Eagles earlier this month hired former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant. But if Doug Pederson is the play-caller, Press Taylor is the passing game coordinator and Jeff Stoutland is the run game coordinator, it begs a pretty obvious question:

What the heck is Scangarello going to do?

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Pederson finally answered that question with at least a little bit more depth than we previously heard.

“He’s going to be able to bridge the gap,” Pederson said Tuesday. “He’s going to be able to bring together the run division and the pass division. With a blend of formations and plays and things that really tie everything together. He’s going to have his hands all over the game plan as well. A lot of communication. A lot of film study. Yeah, he’ll work with the quarterbacks, just like I do. He’ll have a chance to have some input there."

OK, so we don’t exactly know how Scangarello will fill every minute of his work days but we’re starting to get a clearer picture.

Pederson said he and Scangarello bonded over their early backgrounds in the West Coast offense but it’s Scangarello’s close ties to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan that the Eagles found most intriguing. Scangarello worked under Shanahan in both Atlanta and San Francisco and the Eagles are hoping to blend some of those concepts with the offense Pederson is already running.

Namely, the Eagles are hoping this hire really helps Carson Wentz. That’s the No. 1 reason Scangarello was hired.

In addition to the time Scangarello will spend actually coaching the quarterbacks, the idea of QB movement is key. For whatever reason, the Eagles seemed hesitant to move Wentz in and out of the pocket early last season but once they did, he thrived.

That movement, throughout Wentz’s career, has always seemed to get him in a rhythm. And the Eagles are finally ready to lean into that.

“It was important for me,” Pederson said. “I think when I look back at our season and how we kind of finished the season, the thing Carson excelled at was basically those two elements. The play action, the QB movement stuff, the screens were important. And the run game ties into all that.

“This was what was intriguing with Rich, the background, what he’s learned. He studies this game now. You’ll learn when you get to speak to him. This guy has spent a lot of time studying the game. Now helping us, helping our offense. That’s why he was so intriguing to me.”

Despite finding a relatively high level of success with rookie quarterback Drew Lock in Denver, Scangarello lasted just one year as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

After the season, head coach Vic Fangio fired Scangarello and replaced him with Pat Shurmur. There’s plenty of smoke around the idea that Fangio and Scangarello didn’t have the strongest of working relationships.

Check out this exchange I had with Fangio on Tuesday morning:

What were some of Scangarello’s strengths?

“Rich is a good football coach. He knew the system well that he came from, does a good job with quarterbacks. I think Rich has got a bright future.”

What specifically did you like about Scangarello as a coach?

“I think for the first year in there, he did a good job. We played with three quarterbacks, so that has some stress to it. He did a good job of handling that.”

So why didn’t it work?

“That’s a long answer to a short question. I’m not going to get into that.”

See? Plenty of smoke.

Fangio did say on Tuesday that he wanted his offense to be more aggressive in 2020, so perhaps that’s another reason they elected to make a switch.

The word out of Denver is the area where Scangarello struggled was on game day, calling plays. On the flip side, he seemed to excel in preparation and game-planning. The good news for the Eagles is that Pederson is probably never going to give up play-calling responsibilities, so they won’t need Scangarello to do much on game day anyway. They’ll be able to utilize his strengths without worrying about his weaknesses.

Only Pederson really knows the logistics of how this new offensive structure will really work. It’s rare for a team to not have someone with an offensive coordinator title but it’s not unheard of. And the Eagles even thought of deviating from the norm back in 2018 when they promoted Mike Groh.

If this structure doesn’t work in 2020, that failure will belong to Pederson. But if it does work, Scangarello will be a big reason why. 

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How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS — If you were expecting Andy Reid to win his first Super Bowl and turn into a different guy, you don’t know Andy Reid.

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Reid spoke to a huge gathering of reporters at the first big NFL event since his Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

And guess what?

Not much has changed for Big Red.

“I stay in the office, so I’m isolated a little bit that way. There’s not much change there. I’m sure the players, if you talk to them, they’re out there and being recognized as world champs. 

I have gotten a couple free meals. That was nice. But I’m not out there that much to where I’m affected by it too much.”

Gotta love when Andy plays the hits.

Reid said he and his staff enjoyed the Super Bowl for a few days. They had a parade and reveled briefly but then it was back to business as usual. The focus then had to immediately switch to free agency and the draft in what was now a suddenly short offseason.

“Maybe someday when we get a little older and we’re out of the game, you can sit back and go, hey, you know what, we did pretty good there,” Reid said. “But right now, it’s buckling down and making sure we take care of business."

During the Chiefs’ run to the Super Bowl, Reid was very aware of the support he was receiving from Philadelphia, where he spent 14 seasons as head coach. Not everyone was rooting for him but it seemed like a large portion of Philadelphians were happy to see Reid hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

On Tuesday, Reid was asked if he’s heard from folks in Philly since winning the big game.

"Yeah, I’ve talked to all those guys. I’ve stayed close to the organization,” Reid said before scanning the crowd in front of him. “Guys like Les (Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Les Bowen) I’ve stayed close with.”

Les gave a wave.

“There are a couple other guys here that are Philadelphia here,” Reid continued. “I spent 14 years there. I appreciated every bit of it. Jeff Lurie, I appreciated him being at the game and supporting me there, too."

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