Just 20 days after the Eagles claimed him off waivers, cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc lined up on 3rd-and-4 from the Eagles’ 11-yard line in the fourth quarter of a three-point game Sunday and looked across the line of scrimmage to see Odell Beckham Jr. staring back at him.
OBJ vs. Cre’Von LeBlanc. On an island. Game and season on the line.
“I think everybody in the stadium knew where that ball was going,” Malcolm Jenkins said.
Everyone in the stadium was right.
But it didn’t go the way everyone probably would have expected. Beckham ran a post and LeBlanc — perhaps with a hold or two that went uncalled — was able to force a huge incompletion to keep the Giants out of the end zone. A field goal tied the game, but the Eagles won it 25-22 on the next possession.
What went through LeBlanc’s head when he lined up on Beckham for that play?
For me, it’s a dream come true. That’s the highest paid receiver in the league. That’s Odell. Everybody knows what type of receiver he is. He’s definitely phenomenal and crafty at what he does; hats off to him. For me, just trust my technique. I know what type of player I am. I fear no one. I fear no man. At the end of the day, he put his pants on, I put my pants on and we gonna play ball.
Sure, there was some contact here and probably a hold, but give some credit to Cre'Von LeBlanc going 1-on-1 against OBJ with the game on the line. pic.twitter.com/5eWOQRpdXi— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) November 26, 2018
LeBlanc, 24, was just one of three newcomers in the secondary the Eagles featured Sunday out of necessity. Without Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and with Rasul Douglas still hampered by injury, the Eagles relied on a trio of cornerbacks who have been with the team one month or less.
Chandon Sullivan, who joined the team on Oct. 25, and De’Vante Bausby, who was promoted from the practice squad on Nov. 17, both started outside. LeBlanc began the game as the nickel cornerback.
The trio didn’t play a perfect game. There were mistakes made and plays given up.
But Eli Manning didn’t roast this secondary. OBJ and Sterling Shepard didn’t run free. This group of young and relatively inexperienced cornerbacks sort of held its own.
“They hung tough. They battled,” Doug Pederson said. “Nothing is easy. Nothing is pretty. You just have to fight and scratch and get the job done. They did that today. Proud of those guys.”
By the end of the day, Manning threw for 297 yards and Beckham caught five passes for 85 yards, but the Eagles will take that. If you’re wondering why the Giants didn’t make more of a concerted effort to target the Eagles’ young cornerbacks, you’re not the only one.
Odell Beckham: “Knowing they were struggling (with injuries) in the secondary, personally I would’ve loved to attack them. But that wasn’t in our game plan.”— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) November 25, 2018
Jenkins said the Eagles didn’t really roll their coverages much to help Sullivan, Bausby or LeBlanc, which jibes with what Bausby said about the coaching staff. Throughout the whole week, he said, the coaching staff treated them like they were Mills and Darby — the normal starters — getting ready to play.
“They didn’t change anything,” Bausby said. “They believe and that’s definitely been beneficial for us. You have to go out there and do what you have to do.”
Even though the Eagles made it out of Sunday with a win, their situation at corner didn’t magically get better. In fact, Sullivan got hurt during the game, something that brought a smile of disbelief from Jenkins when he brought it up at his locker.
But if the Eagles need to roll with these young guys for a while, at least they got some decent experience Sunday.
“They’ll continue to get better next week,” Jenkins said. “It’s a race to get them just 1 percent better than they were this weekend.”
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