Eagles

Healthy Rodney McLeod back to being the calming force of Eagles’ defense

Healthy Rodney McLeod back to being the calming force of Eagles’ defense

Rodney McLeod’s season had been over for months when he walked through the tunnel of Soldier Field last January holding a ski mask that had become synonymous with the Eagles’ late-season takeaways and swagger. 

Before the Eagles’ 16-15 Wild Card win over the Bears, McLeod broke down the huddle of his defensive back teammates, telling them, “I need that dog outta you!” 

Without Jalen Mills around to be the secondary’s hype man, McLeod had poured himself into that role while injured. By the time the playoffs rolled around, he was quite good at it. 

That speech was great. It was fiery. He saw the Eagles needed that role filled and stepped up. But that’s not really Rodney McLeod. 

“Everybody has a role,” cornerback Rasul Douglas explained. “That’s not his role. We don’t look at Rod and tell him to be rah-rah. That’s not him. We got [Jalen Mills] for that. We got [Malcolm Jenkins] for that. Rod is just an assassin. He just does the work that is not out in the public eye, he keeps everyone together, keeps everyone on one page and communicates with the whole defense. That’s Rod’s job.”

Now that his surgically repaired right ACL is healed, McLeod played in last Thursday’s preseason game and should be ready for Week 1. He has also returned to his normal role within his group. 

The 29-year-old safety has taken back his post as the calming force of the Eagles’ defense. 

On Monday, as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was saying how great it was to get McLeod back, he mentioned that McLeod is a calming influence on the defense and it caught my ear. 

So I asked him what he meant by that. 

Some guys are like super rah-rah guys, like getting guys jacked up,” Schwartz said. “He's one of those guys that everybody just knows it's going to be OK when he's in there. I think there's an important part of that, too. He's stone-cold with his communication. He's always in the right spot, do his job. I mean, those guys are valuable. 

Not everybody has to be, you know, rah-rah. Sometimes it's a combination of that — and not that Rodney doesn't play with a lot of fire, he does, but I think when he's back there, his corners, his nickels, his linebackers, they all get a nice sense of calm because he's such a good communicator. He keeps them ahead of problems on the defense and puts everybody in good position.

As Jenkins explained, communication is extremely important in the Eagles’ defense and that often falls on the safeties and linebackers. Jenkins and McLeod are both veterans, leaders in their own ways and excellent communicators. 

The loss of McLeod early last season shouldn’t be overlooked. They clearly missed him. And getting him to agree to a restructure in January to be able to bring him back for the 2019 season was huge too. While the Eagles have a couple of other veterans in the safety group, McLeod is the one best suited to play that centerfielder role that allows the Eagles to utilize Jenkins’ versatility. 

“You don’t have any worries back there at all,” Jenkins said. “Everybody is completely confident in his ability to have range out of the post, tackle well in space and also to make checks and calls so that’s not all on me either. It definitely lightens my load a little bit.”

So while you’d expect McLeod’s presence to calm his younger teammates — and it does — it also calms the Pro Bowl safety who shares the field with him. 

Everyone just breathes a little easier when McLeod is suited up. 

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Jason Kelce egregiously snubbed by NFL's all-decade voters

Jason Kelce egregiously snubbed by NFL's all-decade voters

Jason Kelce was the best center in the NFL over the last decade and no fraud all-decade team is going to change that.

The NFL on Monday announced its team of the decade, and it was good to see LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Fletcher Cox and Jason Peters named. All are deserving.

But the absence of Kelce is egregious. 

Not surprisingly, the same people who haven’t figured out that Eric Allen was one of the greatest cornerbacks to ever play the game — the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters — are the same people who have decided that Kelce wasn’t one of the two best centers in the NFL from 2010 through 2019.

Alex Mack and Maurkice Pouncey were the centers named to the team of the decade, and guess what.

Kelce has made first-team all-pro more than both of them combined.

Kelce three times, Pouncey twice, Mack zip.

Pouncey deserves one of the two slots. He’s made eight Pro Bowls with the Steelers and played on six playoff teams and a Super Bowl loser. Hell of a career.

Mack? Ask any defensive tackle in the NFL if he’d rather face Kelce or Alex Mack. 

Mack’s been a really good player, and he does have more Pro Bowls than Kelce. But he was a 1st-round pick, and those guys tend to make Pro Bowls much earlier than 6th-round picks like Kelce. 

Kelce didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until his fourth season, and he was absurdly snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting in 2017 and 2018, when he was the best center in football, made first-team all-pro both times and didn’t get picked to the Pro Bowl team.

Kelce is the only active player in the NFL that’s had two all-pro seasons in which he didn’t make the Pro Bowl and one of only six in history.

It’s tough making up ground when you’re a 6th-round pick. You come into the league with no hype, and unless you see the guy play every Sunday you can’t imagine he’s really that good.

The rest of the country finally realized in 2017 what we already knew. Kelce guy is a beast. It took way too long. And judging by this NFL all-decade team people still haven’t figured out how good he is.

Kelce has added a dimension of athleticism to the center position that may be unprecedented. What he lacks in size and strength he makes up for in determination, intelligence and leverage. 

Kelce is one of six centers in NFL history to make first-team all-pro three straight years, the only one to do it in the last 20 years. All the others are Hall of Famers.

He’s also one of only seven centers in NFL history to be named all-pro three times AND to win a Super Bowl or NFL Championship. He’s the only one to do it in the last 35 years.

Kelce did make the Pro Football Writers Association all-decade team, so at least somebody got it right.

The thing that’s really disturbing is that Kelce is building a Hall of Fame resume, and the people that snubbed him for this honor could very well do the same when he’s in the Hall of Fame conversation. All-decade teams are one of the leading criteria Hall of Fame voters cite when justifying their picks.

All I know is Kelce is one of the smartest, toughest guys I’ve ever seen. He’s played through injuries that would have ended most guys’ seasons and some guys’ careers.

And he’s done it at a consistently high level since beating out Jamaal Jackson for the starting job in the summer of 2011.

Kelce probably doesn’t give a darn about all this. He’s never been one to take individual honors seriously. That’s not why he plays the game. 

He plays the game for moments like Feb. 4, 2018, and that’s something that none of the so-called experts can ever take away.

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NFL to reverse controversial pass interference rule for 2020 season: report

NFL to reverse controversial pass interference rule for 2020 season: report

After a one-year flirtation with pass interference challenges didn't really solve anything, the NFL is expected to end the experiment.

Pass interference replay "almost certainly will not be extended", according to a report Monday from NFL.com's Judy Battista:

This isn't terribly surprising. The rule was put in place largely because Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints complained very loudly after an enormous missed call in the 2018-19 postseason.

That crucial uncalled pass interference, you might recall, was committed by new Eagles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman:

The 2019 regular season allowed coaches to challenge pass interference calls, either called or uncalled, but the results were a mixture of underwhelming and frustrating.

Eagles fans probably remember this very obvious Avonte Maddox pass interference that wasn't called, was challenged by Packers coach Matt LaFleur, and then still wasn't called:

That was insane.

"The cumulative effect of the misses, plus the replay spotlight on these misses, has really taken its toll," former NFL ref and current NBC rules analyst Terry McAulay told the New York Times last November.

The line for what constitutes pass interference was shown - as football watchers already knew - to be an indistinct and ever-moving line, and the ability to challenge the calls just created one more layer of aggrivation.

If the league does indeed remove the rule, it will be a victory. Fans, players, and coaches will still yell about missed pass interference calls - but at least they won't have to do it twice.

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