Cre'Von LeBlanc

Cre'Von LeBlanc getting a kick out of shutting people up

Cre'Von LeBlanc getting a kick out of shutting people up

Cre’Von LeBlanc’s career hasn’t followed the path he anticipated when the Patriots signed him out of Florida Atlantic after he went undrafted in 2016.

The Patriots, Bears and Lions have all given up on him, he was on the Lions’ practice squad as recently as 14 months ago, and he missed most of this season with a foot injury.

Today? You just wonder where the Eagles would be without him.

Like so many Eagles — from Jason Peters to Greg Ward to Boston Scott to Nate Gerry to Jake Elliott — he’s gone from practice squad to a key part of a playoff team.

"You hear the talk and you hear what people say – ‘Oh, he’s just a practice squad guy, he’s this, he’s that.’ I’m not a ‘practice squad guy.’ I’m very capable of making all the plays every time I’m out there," LeBlanc said. "I don’t know how many times I got to show the world I can make those plays for me not to be ‘a practice squad guy.’ But everybody’s got their own opinions and at the end of the day I don’t let that bother me, I just go out there and do what I do. But you hear it. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, did you see that? He tackled Saquon.’ People have labels and you’ve got to break down that barrier and I feel like I’m doing that.”

LeBlanc has played more than a few snaps in only 10 games in an Eagles uniform, but anybody who’s paying attention can see how much he brings to this defense.

“We've always had a lot of confidence in him, and with the injury situation we had, he had to go out (Sunday) and play just about every snap in the game and really came through for us,” Jim Schwartz said. “He's a really good tackler, tough finishing at the ball. Our ability to win that game had a lot to do with Cre'Von.”

Mills and Maddox will both be back Sunday for the wild-card playoff game against the Seahawks at the Linc, along with Douglas, so it’s tough to say what LeBlanc’s role will be.

Malcolm Jenkins was saying Thursday that earlier in the season the challenge for the defensive coaches was finding enough capable corners to fill every role. Now the challenge is finding enough roles for all the capable corners.

LeBlanc doesn’t know exactly where he’ll fit in, but that’s nothing new for the 25-year-old.

“My career has definitely been a roller-coaster so far,” he said. “Up, down, cut twice, being on a practice squad, come here, play well in the postseason, then get hurt. Looking back on it, I would definitely say it’s been bittersweet.”

Le’Blanc suffered a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot on July 27, the first day of training camp.

The Eagles kept him on the 53-man roster when they had final cuts, then placed him on Injured Reserve on Sept. 2, which gave them the flexibility to activate him when he was healthy.

That finally happened on Nov. 30, more than four months after he got hurt.

“At first it was like six to eight weeks and then it just prolonged and prolonged,” he said. “It was tough. With these foot injuries you never know. I did get frustrated a bit, but then every couple weeks I’d have a big improvement and I was confident I’d be back at some point.”

He made quite a splash Sunday, with eight tackles, a couple big third-down coverage stops, a 4th-down pass breakup on Sterling Shepard and a piviotal tackle on Saquon Barkley for no gain on a 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter.

“I felt great out there,” he said. “I just tried to be active, fly around, be energetic, be that spark, be myself and make plays.”

Good things happen when LeBlanc is on the field. We saw it in the playoff game in New Orleans last year, when he picked off Drew Brees on the first play of the game, and we saw it Sunday at the Meadowlands.

The Eagles like LeBlanc enough that they gave him a contract extension through 2020 to make sure they didn’t lose him after this season.

Unusual for a guy who’s only played 13 games in an Eagles uniform.

But watching him play, it makes perfect sense.

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Eagles add tight end Josh Perkins, cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, release defensive tackle Albert Huggins

Eagles add tight end Josh Perkins, cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, release defensive tackle Albert Huggins

The Eagles added tight end Josh Perkins and cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc to the active roster on Saturday and both are making the trip to Miami for the Eagles’ game Sunday against the Dolphins.

Perkins had been on the practice squad, and LeBlanc had been on Injured Reserve.

The Eagles also released defensive tackle Albert Huggins. They already had one open spot on the roster after releasing Jordan Matthews on Monday.

Zach Ertz has been hobbled by a hamstring injury this week, and Dallas Goedert was the only other tight end on the roster. Goedert has 31 catches for 289 yards and a team-high four TD catches this year.

Ertz, who has twice as many yards or catches as anybody else on the roster, didn’t practice on Wednesday and was limited in practice on Friday. The Eagles didn’t practice on Thursday.

Perkins has been on the Eagles’ practice squad all year. He’s played in 17 games in his career, eight with the Falcons in 2016 and nine for the Eagles last year.  He has eight career receptions for 109 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown from Matt Ryan against the Panthers in a 33-16 win in Charlotte on Christmas Eve, 2016.

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Perkins can also play some wide receiver. He caught four passes for 57 yards as a wide receiver in a game last year against the Buccaneers. Curiously, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the Buccaneers’ quarterback in that game and starts against the Eagles Sunday for the Dolphins.

Perkins is the 8th player the Eagles have signed to their 53-man roster this year off their practice squad this year, joining Alex Ellis, Bruce Hector, Boston Scott, Alex Singleton, Greg Ward, Craig James and Ryan Lewis.

Other players on the 53-man roster who have spent time on practice squads include Daeshon Hall (Texans), Huggins (Texans), Anthony Rush (Raiders), LeBlanc (Lions), Jake Elliott (Bengals), Nate Sudfeld (Eagles) and Nate Gerry (Eagles).

That means 15 players on the 53-man roster have spent time on a practice squad.

The Eagles last week opened the 21-day window for LeBlanc to practice before deciding whether to activate him or shut him down for the year. He suffered a foot injury during training camp.

“This was a good week for him,” head coach Doug Pederson said Friday.  “Not only to activate him, but to get him back in practice, get him moving around, listening to the calls and executing and all that. Yeah, he's progressing. This is a good week for him.”

LeBlanc, 25, injured his foot very early in training camp and was then put on IR. He was eligible to return after eight games, but it has taken a little longer than that. LeBlanc didn’t return to practice until Wednesday but said it went well.

The only difference between a practice and the rehab work he had been doing is there’s more cutting and changing of directions in practice. LeBlanc admitted he probably isn’t completely back in football shape, but that will come.

And the Eagles won’t put him into a huge role anyway.

The Eagles have solidified their secondary after Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox all returned from injury. That trio has been starting for the Eagles. Perhaps LeBlanc will have a role when the Eagles use four cornerbacks in their dime package. He and Maddox offer the Eagles some versatility. As expected, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz earlier this week was coy about LeBlanc’s role.

The Eagles claimed LeBlanc off waivers last season and he ended up being a really important player down the stretch. He brought some stability to the secondary as the team’s primary nickel corner. He’ll likely be the backup nickel upon his return this year; that was his role all spring, behind Maddox.

This will be a special weekend for LeBlanc. Not only will he make his return from a long rehab process, but he’ll do it in his backyard. LeBlanc grew up in Belle Glade, Florida, about 80 miles from Miami.

The Eagles signed Huggins off the Texans’ practice squad on Oct. 21. He played 44 snaps in four games, including a season-high 15 Sunday against the Seahawks.

With Huggins gone and Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway on IR, the Eagles only have three defensive tackles on the active roster: Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan and Anthony Rush.

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Cre’Von LeBlanc ready to return to Eagles and fill this role

Cre’Von LeBlanc ready to return to Eagles and fill this role

When the Eagles get back to practice on Wednesday, cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc will join them for the first time this season.

The Eagles on Tuesday afternoon activated LeBlanc’s 21-day practice window, signaling an upcoming return from Injured Reserve. 

LeBlanc, 25, hurt his foot early in training camp and has been on IR for the entire season until this point. He’s not on the 53-man roster yet, but the Eagles have an open roster spot that could go to him later in the week. 

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said they’ll need to get LeBlanc back at practice and see where he’s at physically first. 

“It’ll be nice to have him back,” Schwartz said. “He was an important member of our defense last year and we certainly have roles that he can fill.”

Presumably, LeBlanc will fill the backup nickel cornerback role behind Avonte Maddox, but Schwartz can find other ways to get him involved. In recent weeks, the Eagles have used two versions of their dime package: one with three safeties and one with four corners. 

With Maddox’s flexibility, the Eagles could probably use both of them on the field at the same time in the dime package. Maddox has previously played a safety role and could do it again, giving the Eagles their best group of defensive backs. 

Each team gets to bring back two players from IR each season as long as they serve at least eight weeks. LeBlanc is well over that and he’ll be the first returning player for the Eagles this year. Jordan Mailata is also eligible to return, but perhaps the Eagles are holding out hope DeSean Jackson could return in the divisional round of the playoffs. 

The Eagles claimed LeBlanc off waivers last Nov. 5 and he eventually helped solidify a decimated secondary for the playoff run. He signed a one-year extension on Sept. 2. 

While the Eagles’ secondary is much healthier than it’s been in a long time right now, they’ll certainly welcome back another piece. And Schwartz will find a role for him. 

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” Schwartz said. “See what he looks like physically. He’s only been working on the side with trainers. He hasn’t been out with, not only position coaches, but against other players. We need to see what he looks like that way. If he looks good, we’ll get him back into the swing as quick as we can.”

Hitting the road this week, or wasting away on the couch in a food coma? The perfect time to binge your favorite NBC Sports Philadelphia podcast! Click here for more.

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