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.”
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.