“The Eagles’ secondary __________”
You can fill in the blank with whatever word you want, but you get the idea. The Eagles’ secondary has struggled the last two years, and Rodney McLeod has had enough.
Time to do something about it.
Part of it is pass rush, part of it is situational, but over the last two years, the Eagles’ secondary has allowed the 5th-most passing yards in the NFL and the 2nd most passing TDs of 40 yards or more and has the 5th-fewest interceptions.
Enter new secondary coach Marquand Manuel. Enter all-pro cornerback Darius Slay. Enter Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot. Enter Jalen Mills at safety. Enter Will Parks and K’Von Wallace. Good-bye Malcolm Jenkins and presumably a few other familiar faces.
It’s time for this secondary to be a strength of the Eagles. Not a weakness.
As a secondary, I felt that we were a little bit disrespected at times and I think now it’s time to live up to that standard,” McLeod said Thursday. “A standard that’s been set with people that played way before us. The Brian Dawkins of the world. The Troy Vincents. Malcolm (Jenkins). I think when you think of guys who have put on the jersey before us, we owe them that. And so we want to get back to the secondary taking over this defense and winning the game and putting the game on our back, and that’s the standard 'M' (Manuel) is holding us to as well as the players in this room.
The Eagles were 29th in pass defense in 2018 and 19th last year. A lot of that was injuries. But a lot wasn’t.
A lot was just a unit that needed to be overhauled.
The Eagles haven’t had a top-10 pass defense since – believe it or not – 2012, when the 4-12 team was ranked 9th. Mainly because everybody was always up big against them and just ran the ball.
Their last top-5 pass defense was the 2008 unit, with the late Jim Johnson’s last year as defensive coordinator and current Bills head coach Sean McDermott as secondary coach.
Manuel replaces Corey Undlin, now the Lions’ defensive coordinator.
McLeod said Manuel is already emphasizing to his group that it’s time for the Eagles’ secondary to get back to playing like the Eagles’ secondary of old.
“I think people respect him because he’s played the game, because of his passion and because of the way he coaches this group,” McLeod said. “And because the expectations that he has for us. It’s a very high standard. He’s coached a lot of good secondaries and we want to be another group to be respected in this league and treated as such. He’s going to fit perfectly. We’re going to be good.”
This is the first time since 2013 that Jenkins won’t be lining up at safety for the Eagles, but it’s also the first time they have a Pro Bowl cornerback in his prime on the field since Asante Samuel in 2011.
A lot of newcomers, a lot of change. And McLeod is determined to put out a product on the field that fans can appreciate and opposing players will respect.
It’s been a while.
“It’s a talented group,” he said. “It’s a room full of depth and talented individuals and hungry guys too, willing to compete, and that’s what we have to do. We have to create that culture and bring out the best in all of us in order to be the best.
“We’re all professionals and guys are committed and that’s what you need in order to win. For this season, it’s all about who is able to eliminate distractions and adapt and sacrifice. Both in and out of this building. That’s what it’s going to take.”
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