Shaq Leonard’s arrival in Philadelphia is similar to that of an Eagles great

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New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) pulls in a pass reception as Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) covers in the first half of an NFL football game in Frankfurt, Germany Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

After an embarrassing effort against the 49ers, the Eagles have brought in Shaq Leonard in hopes of putting a band-aid on a huge weakness – The linebacker position. Many people had high hopes going into this season because of the expected jump from Nakobe Dean. Unfortunately, Dean has only played in five games this season and is currently on IR. With a lack of depth at the position, Leonard’s arrival feels like one that’s been a season in the making, but what will he bring to the defense?

Eagles linebackers needed help

Zach Cunningham provided the Eagles with a bit of a security blanket but now he has been out due to a hamstring injury. That left Nicholas Morrow, Christian Ellis, and Ben Van Sumeren to handle the load and as you may have witnessed against the Niners, that wasn’t such a good idea. 

Morrow has had his moments of efficient play but more recently that has subsided quite a bit. In fact, Morrow was responsible for 151 yards after the catch on Sunday. He allowed 6 receptions for 175 yards on 8 targets while Ellis allowed 2 catches for 33 yards on 3 targets. Scary times for the Philadelphia defense.

What does Shaq Leonard bring to the Eagles?

Here’s where Shaq Leonard comes in. The veteran is a 3x All-Pro who has been dealing with injury issues over the last year and a half. Even so, Leonard has only allowed 129 yards this season on 14 receptions. That’s in nine games with the Colts. Which is still less than what Morrow allowed in one game alone.

In the season, Morrow has allowed 15 receptions for 260 yards. He hasn’t missed many tackles which makes Sunday an anomaly. But the lack of ability and talent at the LB position which has haunted the Eagles for years has now come to bite them at a crucial time. Which makes the Leonard signing that much greater.

49ers vs. Vikings eagles
Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) fumbles the ball in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Mario Goodrich (31) and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nicholas Morrow (41) during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Philadelphia. The play was negated by a penalty on the Eagles. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Leonard is on a winning team for the first time in a long time. He’s surrounded by veterans who may make the Hall of Fame after their careers are over and he’s also surrounded by some youth with extremely high ceilings.

On paper, it’s safe to say that Leonard has never been surrounded by this much talent but that’s as far as it goes as of now. The Eagles’ defense will be unknowingly dependent on the veteran LB’s experience. It may be on Leonard to help Desai’s scheme come full circle. 

Does Shaq Leonard’s arrival remind you of another?

The defense is suffering greatly from a lack of identity. The secondary has been all over the place due to miscommunication, the pass rush has not been winning as they were last season and the LBs have been a bit worrisome. Bringing in a player like Shaq instantly adds value to the locker room. His resume along with his ability to lead will pay off big for Desai.

Let’s not forget that Leonard is also in a position where he is playing for a big payday in the offseason. He needs to rebuild his market and what better place to do so than in Philadelphia where the LB group is their biggest weakness?

His arrival is similar to that of DeMeco Ryans’ when he came to Philly. A veteran LB who is going to give 110% from the first quarter to the end of the fourth quarter. He’s intelligent and is a game-wrecker, which is exactly what the Eagles need in a linebacker.

They don’t call him the Maniac for no reason. Now is he the savior for this defense? No. But he’s exactly what they need right now. A leader in the middle who is confident in his own ability as much as he is in the player right beside him. This will pay off big for the Eagles and Desai. Just give it time. 

AP Photo/Martin Meissner