Eagles' new-look secondary will face unique challenge to find chemistry

Eagles' new-look secondary will face unique challenge to find chemistry

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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Zach Ertz introduces coaching and mentoring program

Zach Ertz introduces coaching and mentoring program

Zach Ertz has created a program where he’ll virtually coach and mentor a select number of high school or college football players 1-on-1 in exchange for various acts of service.

Ertz, the Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl tight end, is calling the program Team Protege, and he introduced it Saturday on social media.

“I sat in on a Stanford business school class this offseason and being in that environment again pushed me to think outside of the box and how I could give back during this unprecedented time,” Ertz said. “I was taking the class over Zoom so why couldn’t I be the one teaching kids through an online platform, so I developed Team Protege.”

Ertz said the coaching relationship he shared in high school with three-time 49ers all-pro tight end Brent Jones was part of his inspiration.

Seven years ago, I wrote about that relationship

The program is free for the student athletes. All that is required is what Ertz is calling a service challenge.

The initial one?

“It’s going to be writing a letter of appreciation to a loved one telling them how much you appreciate them, how much you love them,” Ertz said in a video he shared on social media. “Give it to that person and film their reaction, and post that on your social media, and let’s try to bring some hope to people right now. That’s all I’m asking and I will watch your guys’ film from there.”

Student athletes who are interested can begin the process here.

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Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham is reportedly joining the Las Vegas Raiders organization.

While Cunningham, 57, can still likely throw bombs to Raiders receivers, he'll be guiding them spiritually as the team chaplain, according to ESPN.

"I'm elated, flabbergasted," Cunningham told ESPN on Friday. "I've already been in on some [Zoom] meetings with the team. I plan on spending a lot of time with the guys when it's OK. I've talked with Marcus Mariota, Nelson Agholor. What an amazing group of people Mark Davis and Jon Gruden have put together."

Cunningham played his college ball at UNLV and coached high school football in Las Vegas for a couple of seasons a few years back.

Randall has spent much of the past few years working with daughter, Vashti, and son, Randall II, in their quest for Olympic dreams.

The former NFL MVP is highly regarded around the league and will be a solid addition to the Raiders organization. His Twitter account, which is mostly dormant, has the handle "PastorRandallC."

Randall worked with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden during his playing days in Philadelphia.

"He's going to take care of the guys in Las Vegas," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com. "Jon had him address the team in a team Zoom [recently] and he did a really good job of setting the stage for the team in Las Vegas.

Just last week, NBC Sports Philadelphia ranked Randall as the second best quarterback in Eagles history.