Eagles

After saving Eagles last year, Cre'Von LeBlanc still facing uphill climb

After saving Eagles last year, Cre'Von LeBlanc still facing uphill climb

Last Nov. 5, the Eagles made a move that might have saved their season. They cut Dexter McDougle and claimed Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers. 

After just a couple weeks, LeBlanc became the Eagles’ nickel cornerback and solidified the position. He averaged over 50 snaps per game down the stretch in the regular season and played 77 snaps in two playoff games for a secondary that was completely decimated by injuries. And in the divisional round game, when Drew Brees decided to attack LeBlanc on the first play from scrimmage, LeBlanc instead intercepted the pass. 

“I don’t know where we’d be without Cre,” Jim Schwartz said last season. 

Despite all that, LeBlanc didn’t get any first-team practice reps this spring. 

Even without Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby (both still recovering), it seems like Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones are planted firmly ahead of LeBlanc on the depth chart. 

It is what it is,” LeBlanc said last week. “All I can do is focus on the reps I get. When I am out there on the field, make sure I come up big. I have very little room for error, so go out there and make sure I have my face in the playbook and keep making plays.

It might seem unfair. 

After all, LeBlanc was a big reason the Eagles were able to turn their season around last year. Even though they lost to the Saints in the divisional round, he had an interception, seven tackles and two PBUs. He played well. He played well enough that you’d understand if he was disappointed he hasn’t gotten even a few first-team reps. But he says he’s not focused on that.

On the flip side, the Eagles drafted Jones and Douglas and Maddox, so it makes sense that they’re going to want to give those guys opportunities. And, for what it’s worth, all three had good springs in front of LeBlanc. 

I listed LeBlanc as one of five losers from the spring and it had nothing to do with his play. Like he always has since he’s been here, LeBlanc played well during OTAs and minicamp. It was just that the Eagles don’t seem eager to give him a chance to retain his slot corner spot. 

After having such a big role and after helping turn around the Eagles’ 2018 season, it seems like that role won’t be there for LeBlanc this year. 

If it shakes out like that … I can only control what I can control. When I do my thing on the field, then that’s what I’m there for. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’m there for. But at the end of the day, wherever Coach needs me, inside, outside, I’m here to do my part. Whether it’s on defense, special teams. I’m just here to win a championship.

That’s a mature outlook from LeBlanc. But the 24-year-old said it’s not a new outlook for him. He knows the importance about keeping his mind unclogged. And if he’s not on the field, his friends are. The group of cornerbacks is close; it legitimately roots for each other and competition is high. 

Think about it. Because of injuries last season, a bunch of younger players have more experience. LeBlanc, who has bounced around in his three NFL seasons, is probably the sixth corner on the depth chart behind Darby, Mills, Jones, Maddox and Douglas, but he’s still the same guy who played really well last season. After injuries decimated the Eagles’ secondary in 2018, they at least appear to have great cornerback depth heading into 2019. 

Would LeBlanc like a chance to win his nickel corner spot back? Of course. But when the team reports for training camp on July 24, he won’t be stressing about it. 

“If you starting thinking about all that other stuff, you clog your mind up and then you’re not performing on the field,” LeBlanc said. “It can mess you up. Our room is real competitive, we all root for one another. It don’t matter who’s out there.”

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Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Are Eagles deep enough at DE?

Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Are Eagles deep enough at DE?

As we near the start of the Eagles’ 2019 training camp, we’re taking a closer look at some key position battles to watch this summer. We already looked at cornerback, running back and linebacker.            

Up today: Defensive end 

Names to know 

Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall, Joe Ostman 

What to watch 

While the Eagles have much more depth at defensive tackle heading into the 2019 season, there’s some reason to worry about their depth at defensive end. Last year, they began the season with the same starters but had Michael Bennett and Chris Long as rotational players. This year, they’re not that deep. 

The starters are the same this season: Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. Even though he’s over 30 now, we all know what kind of player Graham has been and will be in 2019. He was hobbled by a lingering ankle injury early last season but was back to himself later. Barnett got off to a quick start in 2018, but then hurt his shoulder and eventually needed surgery. He wasn’t a full participant in OTAs this spring, but should be ready for the start of the season. Those two are set and should be pretty good. 

After the starters? That’s where some questions start to form. Curry is back on a much cheaper deal than the one he made it through just one year of in Tampa Bay. Curry is a solid player, but he’s 31 now and since he had 9 sacks in 2014, he hasn’t gone over 3 1/2 in the four years since. In an injury-shortened season in Tampa Bay, he had 2 1/2 sacks in 2018. And now, he’s the Eagles’ top rotational end. 

But at least Curry has proven to be an adequate player in the NFL. Sweat, Miller, Hall and Ostman haven’t proven much in their short careers. Sweat certainly looks the part and will get a chance to be a part of the rotation, but last year’s fourth-rounder played just 68 snaps last season. Miller was the last pick of the fourth round this year, so it would be unfair to have immediately high expectations of him. Hall was a third-round pick in 2017, but didn’t last in Carolina and has struggled to find a home in the NFL. Ostman is a hard-worker whom the Eagles love, but is he really the answer? 

Perhaps the Eagles bring in a veteran — Connor Barwin would like to come back — to fill out the rotation, but if they don’t, we’ll need to watch Sweat, Miller, Hall and Ostman closely this summer. One or two of them will likely make the roster and then fight for playing time. Because Malik Jackson will probably stay on the field for third downs, the depth at defensive end isn’t as important, but the Eagles are one injury away from one of those guys playing a significant role in 2019. 

Prediction 

Graham and Barnett start and Curry is the first guy off the bench. Sweat will be the team’s fourth option, but will have to earn playing time. I don’t think Miller is ready to be a significant contributor as a rookie. Keep an eye on Hall, who is a dark horse candidate to make the team.

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Eagle Eye podcast: Wentz out of the shadow; Peters back to dominating?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Wentz out of the shadow; Peters back to dominating?

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro are getting ready for training camp. 

The guys break down a few things Doug Pederson said before the team broke for summer, take a look at position battles and list former Eagles who squandered their talent. 

Also, wishing Chris Maragos the best as he retires. 

2:00 - Getting ready for training camp 
8:00 - Doug Pederson on Carson Wentz 
12:00 - Can Jason Peters be dominant again? 
19:00 - Position battle: CB 
24:00 - Position battle: RB
28:00 - Position battle: LB
32:00 - Position battle: DE
35:00 - Position battle: WR
40:00 - Eagles who squandered talent 
51:00 - Chris Maragos retires 

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More on the Eagles