This is something Rodney McLeod isn’t used to. Something he doesn't want to get used to.
Standing on the sidelines watching.
“It’s hard,” McLeod said Wednesday. “I think any competitor wants to be out there every single snap, whether you’re a starter or whether you’re not. You think you’re deserving to be out there every snap and you want to be a part of every single play.”
McLeod has been as close to a sure thing as possible since he got here.
From 2016, when he first signed with the Eagles, through last year, McLeod played 63 games in which he didn’t get hurt. In those 63 healthy games, he played 4,031 out of a possible 4,051 snaps.
That means that when he was available, McLeod played 99.5 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps over a five-year period. And most of those 20 snaps he missed came at the tail end of blowout wins.
There was no rotation. There was no platoon. There were no snaps off.
If he was healthy, he played. No discussion.
Times have changed. McLeod is 31 now, he’s coming off a serious ACL injury and he’s seen his playing time dip.
He missed the first three games of this season as he finished rehabbing his knee, but he was still averaging 84 percent of the snaps since Week 4 going into the Jets game.
A little less than he's used to but 84 percent is a lot.
Then came the Jets game.
When all was said and done, McLeod had played just 38 snaps, his fewest in a game that he didn't get hurt since 2013, when he was still just a special teamer with the Rams.
McLeod missed more healthy snaps against the Jets (21) than he missed in the previous five seasons combined (20).
Is it a demotion? Not really. Did he get benched? Nah.
But it’s clear that his role is changing in a way that no NFL player wants his role to change.
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Jonathan Gannon played all three safeties against the Jets, with Anthony Harris also seeing his playing time drop. He played a season-low 48 snaps, McLeod 38 and Marcus Epps got 34 – his most in a game when McLeod and Harris were both healthy.
“That’s what the coaches have decided and think that’s what’s best for the team,” McLeod said. “It’s been good. Obviously, it’s an adjustment for me rotating, but just being able to get all three of us out there throughout the game consistently, and I think we’re all playing at a high level, so (they) just want to be able to get us all on the field and figure out more ways that we can do that.
“It’s working out, we’re continuing to get better, we’re going to continue to make plays and we’re going to just need us all to play our best at all times when we are in there.”
McLeod, who’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, turns 32 this summer. He's coming off two severe knee injuries in a three-year span, and his age, his recent injury history and his dwindling snaps do cast doubt on his future with the Eagles.
But leave it to the ever-positive McLeod to find a silver lining in his diminishing playing time.
“There’s always pros,” he said. “Me coming off an ACL injury and having to bounce back, yeah, having maybe five to 10 reps off a game is huge, especially going down the stretch.
“I’m healthy, I’m feeling good, and this is what the defense needs, finding ways to get us all on the field and finding ways to contribute.”