Rodney McLeod is looking forward to playing next to cornerback-turned-safety Jalen Mills in 2020. And he’s excited to play alongside recent Eagles acquisitions Darius Slay and Will Parks in a new-look secondary.
The problem is we don’t know when this new group will finally be together on the field.
Because of the coronavirus spread, the NFL has already postponed the beginning of offseason workout programs scheduled for April and teams are in what seems like pretty serious danger of losing their Organized Team Activities and mandatory minicamp.
And this year’s OTAs would have been huge for an Eagles secondary with so many new or different pieces.
That’s the tough part, because one thing that you need is chemistry, and we’ve got to figure out the best way to get that done,” McLeod said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark this week. “I think all the guys that we have, man, are true professionals, so we’ll figure it out. I think right now the most important (thing) is keeping everyone safe as possible.
“And for us, once we get in the clear and we’re able to get to back work we’ve got to get to it quickly as possible, and so it’s going to be what’s our commitment level? I’m sure everybody’s going to be committed because everybody wants to win, so we’ve got to do whatever that entails. If that means for us the month of June, instead of us taking some time off and getting away, is us working out together, going over film, just taking it upon ourselves, man, to look at the bigger goal ahead and know what we’re trying to accomplish come September.
So it won’t be impossible to find that chemistry, but it might take a little bit of extra work.
McLeod, 29, is one of the few holdovers expected play at the same position in the Eagles’ secondary in 2020. He’s also taking a more vocal leadership role after Malcolm Jenkins left as a free agent, so it’ll be up to him to make sure this group is ready to go when the season begins.
If OTAs are able to be held in May (or whenever), there’s a good chance the Eagles will use them to figure out the other two starting cornerback jobs and try different combinations. But without them, those competitions won’t happen until training camp -- if that starts on time.
So far, here’s what we expect from the Eagles’ secondary in 2020:
Free safety: Rodney McLeod
Strong safety: Jalen Mills
Third safety: Will Parks
CB1: Darius Slay
That leaves the second starting corner spot vacant as well as the nickel corner role. For now, the names expected to compete for those roles are Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc.
The biggest adjustment for McLeod will be playing next to Mills, who is expected to take over Jenkins’ role in the defense. McLeod played next to Jenkins for the last four seasons and they learned how to complement each other.
That process starts anew with Mills.
I think it will be a little adjustment,” McLeod said. “I will say one thing: Jalen is a very smart player. He plays with a lot of passion and energy as well. That’s what I love most about him. He’s one of the most confident guys I know on this team. I think he has the IQ and the experience part down. But I think we’re just going to have to kind of get caught up to speed on the safety perspective because it’s a different view for him.
The biggest addition to the secondary is obviously Slay, who has been a Pro Bowl cornerback in each of the last three seasons. He’s coming in to correct a position that has been a weak spot for the Eagles for many seasons.
McLeod is thrilled about the chance to play with him.
“You’ve got a lot of fresh faces back there that people don’t know but quickly will learn about and so I’m excited about what [Slay] can do for us, the ability to match up with our opponent’s best and take on that challenge, man, and step up to the plate and pretty much lock things down,” McLeod said.
“I think that makes my job a lot easier as a safety. But I’m just looking forward to first stepping in the building with him and then just building, like I said. I already started reaching out to guys like Will Parks and just getting his mindset a little bit. But it’s going to be a fun season. It’s new, it’s a new group of guys, but guys who all have the work ethic and are willing to put the work in and go to battle.”
They’ll need that work ethic this offseason. Because the ever-changing schedule won’t do them any favors.
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