Can the Eagles defense survive without Rodney McLeod?

Just as things were looking up for the injury stricken Super Bowl champions, another Tornado of bad news rips through the City. According to numerous reports, Eagles Safety Rodney McLeod is out for the season after suffering a torn MCL in week 3’s win over the Colts.

Losing any player to a season-ending injury is heartbreaking for a team, let alone someone whose tackling and ability to set the tone on that backline is just outstanding. McLeod tallied a pass defense in all three games played in this season.

So, what next? The Eagles will be down to just Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham and the recently acquired Deiondre’ Hall. The signing of Corey graham this offseason now exudes extreme value to Roseman and the Eagles, who without the Wiley vet could be experiencing a very different situation right now. Graham’s experience should shoulder any backline concerns and Graham did a fine job of stepping in for the injured McLeod after he went down with the injury against Indianapolis.

The direct knock-on effect from this is going to be that Jenkins, one of the league’s most versatile defenders, is likely going to be pinned to the final line of defense once again. It’s interesting how much Rodney McLeod was used inside the box and as a pass-rusher to start the season, with Jim Schwartz clearly having a higher level of confidence in the former Rams Safety to drop down than he did one year ago. Unless the Eagles feel comfortable in fielding a duo of Corey Graham and his potential apprentice, Deiondre Hall, then Jenkins will be pencilled in as a strong safety again as opposed to being allowed to wreak havoc wherever Schwartz pleases.

While initially negative, we’re forgetting about hybrid linebacker, Nate Gerry, who graduated Nebraska as a Safety before taking a plunge in changing position for the Eagles. Gerry’s role has grown from an exclusive special teamer to a linebacker who hits hard and has great awareness, carving his own niche in the defense. It may be that Jenkins and Graham can carry the load at Safety, with Gerry stepping up in relief of Jenkins to fill that ‘remote control missile’ role.

Another under-the-radar move would be moving Jalen Mills up to the Safety spot. This isn’t Madden and there’s a lot that goes into a schematic move like that, but the theory is that Mills has the playing experience over the top from his days at LSU and his one knock as a corner has been his athletic ability and speed, while tackling has been a monumental strength. There’s no doubting his fit and it would allow Sidney Jones to flex outside with either Rasul Douglas or Avonte Maddox filling the other void.

The Eagles may well look to bring in another Safety. Tre Sullivan is sitting pretty on the practice squad as a player who has plenty of experience with the team both on defense and special teams. The Eagles lost out on Jeremy Reaves to the Redskins, but Sullivan, who was battling with Reaves for the third Safety spot during camp, should be ready and willing to step up at any point if the Eagles want some reliability instead of the wildcard unknown in Hall.

The coincidental signing of Eric Reid to the Panthers stings a little more this afternoon, but names such as Tyvon Branch and T.J Ward remained unsigned and could be viable options. The difficulty would be, as Ronald Darby discovered, getting acquainted with the scheme to a level where you’re able to go out and execute efficiently. Rodney McLeod did such. brilliant job of commanding the secondary that it would be hard for a complete newcomer to step up and replicate that impact.

It’s not as if the Eagles aren’t without in-house optionality and there are some potential free agents available, but it would seem like a panicky move to bring in a new player who realistically wouldn’t be up to speed for quite some time. Just look at Jordan Matthews, who spent a year with Doug Pederson and a full offseason in 2017 before being traded. His impact and visibility in his first game back was minimal, tallying just 2 receptions. Expect the Eagles to look at the players they have in the building very closely before venturing out of the NovaCare Complex to find help on the free agent market.

 

Mandatory Photo Credit: Bill Streicher- USA Today Sports

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