As you watched the Eagles’ defense get confused, out of position and shredded by the Rams’ offense on Sunday, it was impossible to avoid thinking about what it might be missing.
Or, really, who it might be missing.
Because for the previous six seasons, Malcolm Jenkins rarely left the field and was the unquestioned leader on that side of the ball. Surely, Jenkins wouldn’t let that happen if he were still here, right?
“Can we please stop doing that?” asked Jalen Mills, who moved from cornerback to safety this season to replace Jenkins on the field.
“This team, we have enough leaders, we have enough captains, there’s no void as far as in our leaders and our captains on this team. And guys are doing their part. We had a rough patch these last two weeks and we’re going to get them fixed.”
On Tuesday morning, Jim Schwartz said he had a simple game plan in place for the Rams, which was a mistake that led to three straight Los Angeles touchdown drives to start the game. At some level, a coach has a simple game plan because he trusts his players to make plays and handle their responsibilities. If Jenkins was out there, maybe that would have happened.
Even after preparing for all the motions and eye candy the Eagles knew the Rams were going to throw their way, the Eagles still couldn’t stop it. They were undisciplined, out of position and it really makes you wonder if having Jenkins on the field would have corrected some of those issues.
That thought was on the mind of WIP Morning Show host Angelo Cataldi, who asked Pederson about missing Jenkins on Monday morning.
“It’s hard to replace a Malcolm, you know?” Pederson said on WIP. “I think it’s hard. His leadership the last couple of seasons is something that’s hard for someone to just step in and take that role.”
Of course, this isn’t to say the Eagles simply should have kept Jenkins, although you can certainly make that case. But Jenkins is a 32-year-old safety and Howie Roseman probably thought paying an aging and declining player more money goes against their re-tooling philosophy. And based on Jenkins’ play in the Saints game on Monday Night Football, maybe they were right.
But the problem might have been how they replaced Jenkins — or how they tried to. They moved a career cornerback to safety, re-signed Rodney McLeod, signed Will Parks and drafted K’Von Wallace. Maybe that’ll be enough eventually, but it’s fair to wonder if the Eagles’ defense is missing its leader in the short-term.
Even if Mills doesn’t want to talk about it.
“That’s my big brother,” Mills said. “But at the end of the day, I feel like we gotta get that out. You know what I’m saying? People gotta get that out of their heads. Everybody watched the game last night, 27 was playing for the Saints.”