Eagles

Rodney McLeod explains biggest lessons learned from Malcolm Jenkins

Rodney McLeod explains biggest lessons learned from Malcolm Jenkins

Four years ago, when Rodney McLeod became a free agent for the first time in his NFL career, one of the reasons he wanted to join the Eagles was for the chance to play next to Malcolm Jenkins. 

And for the last four years, he did. The two formed a safety tandem that played 49 regular season games and four playoff games, including Super Bowl LII, together. 

But now Jenkins is back in New Orleans with the Saints and the Eagles are preparing to play without him for the first time since 2013. Meanwhile, McLeod signed a two-year deal to return to Philly. 

On a conference call with reporters on Thursday, McLeod said he learned a lot from Jenkins over the past four seasons. 

What were some of those lessons? 

Just as a competitor,” McLeod said. “And then the ability to get the most out of guys, whether it’s on the defensive side or from an entire team standpoint. I think as a leader, that’s your kind of job. How can you get guys to play at the highest level and get the most out of your players. I think he was one of the best at doing that and understanding everyone … I learned a lot from him. 

“Not just on the field but off the field, the way he handled himself and what he did in the community for the city. I’ll always admire him. It’s hard to match. But like I said, his legacy will live on. The Saints are getting a good guy. Now, us as Eagles, playing with a new group of guys and we’re ready to move forward.

There’s no question that the Eagles are going to miss Jenkins’ contributions on the field. They will use some combination of Jalen Mills and Will Parks to replace him at that position and that won’t be easy. 

But the Eagles will also miss the leadership Jenkins brought to the locker room. He wasn’t just the leader of the secondary or even just the defense; Jenkins was oftentimes the key leader for the entire team. That’s hard to replace too. 

It’s not that McLeod, 29, hasn’t been a leader during his first four years in Philly. But now that role might need to expand and will become more important with the absence of Jenkins. 

“I think it’s important for me to be myself and be who I’ve always been,” McLeod said. “And that’s a guy that leads by his actions and leads by example. I think if you ask a lot of guys on the team, that’s what they’ll tell you most. Actions sometimes speak louder than words. I think there will be times for me to speak up when needed. When my teammates need me most, I’ll be ready to do that.”

For the most part, McLeod has been the quieter of the two safeties and Jim Schwartz has previously called him the calming presence in the defensive backfield.

But McLeod can speak up too. 

It’s really just about finding a balance between his two sides and putting the lessons from Jenkins into practice in 2020. 

“Myself, being a leader on this team for some time, will of course be asked to step up as well as other guys from a defensive standpoint and on the team,” McLeod said. “I think we’re prepared for that. And guys will be willing to step up to the plate and accept the challenge. Myself first and foremost.”

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Eagles 2020 breakout candidate: Will Jalen Reagor have a big rookie season?

Eagles 2020 breakout candidate: Will Jalen Reagor have a big rookie season?

Over the next two weeks, I’m taking a look at 10 Eagles players who might be primed for a breakout season in 2020. I have already looked at Boston Scott, K’Von Wallace, Sidney Jones and T.J. Edwards

Up today: Jalen Reagor 

Age: 21

How acquired: Drafted in 1st round (No. 21) 

Entering: Year 1

There will be high expectations for the Eagles’ first-round pick during his rookie season. The Eagles chose Reagor over several other options, including Justin Jefferson, who might have been the more pro-ready player. But they chose him because of his speed and big play-making ability. 

There’s no question the Eagles can use a big-time playmaker on offense. 

After DeSean Jackson went down last season, the main element the Eagles lacked on offense was elite speed. While Reagor didn’t run very well at the combine, putting up a 4.47, he was much faster at his virtual pro day and those faster numbers backed up what the Eagles saw on tape. They think they’re getting a speedy and explosive player. 

DraftKings right now has the over/under number on receiving yards for Reagor as a rookie at 650.5. 

To put that number into perspective, there have been just seven players in Eagles history to have 651 receiving yards in their rookie seasons. In the last 30 years, the only three are Jordan Matthews in 2014, Jeremy Maclin in 2009 and DeSean Jackson in 2008. 

One reason why Reagor has the chance to hit the over on that prop bet is because he should have some opportunity. The Eagles need him to get involved early on in his career because there are significant question marks at the position. The top two returning receivers in 2020 are Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. And Greg Ward is a nice piece but shouldn’t keep Reagor off the field. 

Now, it won’t be easy for a rookie receiver to come in and make an impact, especially in a year where there were no OTAs or minicamps. And maybe the Eagles’ goal is to bring Reagor along slowly. But they shouldn’t. 

Reagor should get ample playing time to start his rookie season and it should increase as the year goes on. With all that opportunity and with his explosive ability, he has a real chance for a big rookie season. 

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What we've learned the past week about the Eagles

What we've learned the past week about the Eagles

I was really struck by something Nick Foles wrote the other day in his powerful and heartfelt message explaining his feelings following the death of George Floyd.

And even though Nick isn't an Eagle these days, I think his message really helps define what's truly special about this franchise.

"My favorite part of playing football has not been winning a Super Bowl or running the Philly Special," Foles tweeted out. "It has been to glorify God and to play with men from all different backgrounds and races. Men come together to achieve the common goal of winning games no matter what their background. To do that, they must love one another, genuinely. It becomes a real brotherhood. I have been a part of some special teams. The special teams did not always have the best playbook, but they did have the strongest brotherhood."

I think we all understand what teams Nick is talking about.

This is a special place. This is a special franchise. And it didn't just happen by accident.

It's easy to scoff at Howie Roseman when he talks about bringing in character guys. And it's easy to dismiss Jeff Lurie as a billionaire who's only interested in making money. 

But Lurie is a community-minded owner who's created a culture where people genuinely respect each other, where doors are always open if there are conflicts, where communication and dialogue and understanding are paramount.

And Roseman has for the most part brought in players who fit that culture. And generally, if you're wondering why the Eagles haven't signed some guy who made a bunch of Pro Bowls or why they've cut ties with a productive player seemingly in his prime, it's because of fit.

And it's pretty clear after four years of watching Doug Pederson that his greatest strength is his ability to inspire 53 men not just to play football at the highest level but to be good people.

To care about each other and listen to each other and understand each other.

Which is what Foles was getting at. 

That 2017 team was very good but it wasn't the most talented team we've ever seen around here. But the togetherness and unity and trust was off the charts. 

And I think we're really seeing the exact same thing right now.

Man, you listen to Jason Kelce, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz and DeSean Jackson, and maybe I'm naive or overly idealistic, but I get a real sense of people who want to make a difference and genuinely care about each other.

You can't have two more different people than Jason Kelce and DeSean Jackson. 

A burly, white offensive lineman from Cleveland who plays Jack Johnson on the guitar and a speedy African American receiver from Los Angeles who blasts hip-hop in the locker room.

But to hear Kelce talk about how DeSean inspired him to open up and speak about racism, and then to hear DeSean speak about how much that meant to him, this is meaningful and this is real and this is inspiring.

The more athletes and celebrities who use their platform to influence and educate and demand change the more we have a chance to move beyond the racism, homophobia, bigotry and sexism that are so prevalent in our society.

Talking about winning football games seems irrelevant in the big picture right now, but there's no question that a team that has unity and respect and understanding in the locker room is going to be better equipped to withstand the challenges of a football season.

But this is about more than that.

This is a franchise that's easy to be proud of not just because of how many games they win but because of what they're all about as people.

And anybody who still believes athletes can't make a difference just hasn't been paying attention.

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