Eagles observations: Why the Eagles need to bring back free agent Rodney McLeod
A veteran I changed my mind about, why Shady is a Hall of Famer, and my favorite Jerome Brown story.
All that and more in this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Off-Season Sightings.
1. If you had asked me seven or eight weeks from the end of the season if the Eagles should bring back Rodney McLeod, I would have said no. McLeod looked old and heavy. He was almost a year away from that torn ACL, but at 31 and after two torn ACLs in three years, it looked like he had lost about three steps. It wasn’t for lack of effort, because no one can ever question Rodney McLeod’s effort. But he legitimately looked like he was at his wit’s end in his 10th season. Hey, it happens.
Then Jonathan Gannon started cutting his snaps. After playing 100% of the snaps in nearly every game he’s played since arriving here in 2016, McLeod has played around 75% down the stretch. And her body responded. He started to move better. He started making more games. He was able to be physical because he was physically able to put himself in a position to be physical. As the Eagles spluttered in the third quarter of a must-win Week 15 win over the Giants, his interception and 24-yard return set up the Eagles’ first TD, a Boston Scott run. A week later, his INT dive in the end zone against Washington essentially saved the season.
The McLeod we saw at the end of the season, I want him back. Anthony Harris won’t be here in 2022, Marcus Epps is a good player but probably the best fit to be a rotation guy, and knows K’Von Wallace. It’s not easy to replace two starting safeties in a single offseason. McLeod is a free agent, but I want to see the Eagles bring him back if McLeod is willing to do another one-year contract. And why wouldn’t he? At 31, he’s unlikely to command a big, multi-year contract on the open market. He’s made it clear he wants to be here, he’s a great leader, he’s deeply involved in the community and he won’t break the bank. He showed he could still play. Give me another year with Rodney.
2. With DeVonta Smith starting 16 games and Landon Dickerson 13, it was the first time in more than a quarter century that the Eagles’ 1st and 2nd round picks have both started at least 12 games. In 1995, 1st-round pick Mike Mamula started 13 and 2nd-round pick Barrett Brooks — NBC Sports Philadelphia’s own — started 16. The only other times this happened was 1957 (Clarence Peaks, Billy Ray Barnes) and 1988 (Keith Jackson and Eric Allen).
3. Eight reasons why LeSean McCoy will be a Hall of Famer: 1) In the decade from 2010 to 2019, he made six Pro Bowls. No other RB has made more than four; 2) In the 2010s, he rushed for 10,434 yards and no one else was within 600 yards; 3) During the 2010s, his 13,923 scrimmage yards were more than 2,000 more than any other running back; 4) During the 2010s, his 463 receptions were second most among all NFL running backs (three behind Darren Sproles); 5) Of the 22 RBs in NFL history with 11,000 rushing yards, his 4.5 rushing average is the 6th highest; 6) He is one of only five RBs of all time with 11,000 rushing yards and 500 receptions. Four others are in the Hall of Fame. Shady has a higher precipitation average than all of them; 7) In the past 50 years, only 10 running backs have made six Pro Bowls. All are in the Hall of Fame except Adrian Peterson, who will be when eligible; 8) Shady’s 4.5 career average is higher than 23 of the 30 Hall of Fame running backs.
4. When the Washington Commanders hired Juan Castillo on Friday, they became the fifth team he has coached with since he broke in with the Eagles in 1995. The head coaches he has worked for since Andy Reid signed him dismissed six games in the 2012 season? John Harbaugh, Sean McDermott, Matt Nagy and now Ron Rivera. All four coached with Castillo under Reid. This is the impact of the Andy Reid coaching tree. The relationships that all of these guys have built over the years are pretty powerful. Rivera and Castillo haven’t worked together since 2003, but 19 years later Rivera didn’t hesitate to hire him.
5. Corey Clement’s Super Bowl performance remains one of the craziest things to ever happen in the history of the world. Clement played 67 games in the NFL. He had 100 receiving yards in the Super Bowl and averaged 6.6 yards in all of his other games. He had more yards on that Nick Foles 55-yard catch-and-run to set up the Philly Special than he had in any other entire game. And that remains the longest passing game in the last nine Super Bowls. It’s insane that Clement — an undrafted 3rd string rookie — was on three of the Super Bowl’s biggest plays: his 22-yard miracle touchdown, the 55-yard and the Philly Special. What a performance. What a story.
6. I was happy to see the Raiders signed Cre’Von LeBlanc on Friday. I’m still convinced that Cre’von can play if he can put himself in the right situation and stay healthy. He is a tough, physical, intelligent and instinctive slot player. The problem is injuries. He’s only played 13 games in the last three years and it’s not all injuries, but also waiting for a shot. Strap was huge down the stretch and in the playoffs here in 2018, but has barely played since. Since his last snap – Week 10 of the 2020 season – LeBlanc has spent time with the Eagles, Dolphins, Texans and now the Raiders. He’s only 27 and the Raiders’ director of professional personnel is Dwayne Joseph, who was with the Eagles from 2015-2019, so he knows what LeBlanc is capable of. That’s life as an undrafted Florida Atlantic free agent. Lots of twists and turns, lots of waiting for an opportunity, lots of trying to get noticed. Hopefully LeBlanc brings it together in Vegas.
7. Quez Watkins has 753 career receiving yards. Every other WR the Eagles have drafted in the 6th round in franchise history has 14 career receiving yards as an Eagle.
8. The Eagles got 2nd and 4th round picks from Washington for Donovan McNabb, a 2nd round pick for Kevin Kolb, 1st and 4th round picks for Sam Bradford and now 1st and 3rd round picks for Carson Wentz. It’s all crazy and pretty hilarious. But the Eagles’ ultimate QB trade robbery came back in March 2004 when they somehow conned the Dolphins into trading the Eagles with a 2nd round pick for AJ Feeley. The Dolphins coveted Feeley based on five starts he made in place of the injured McNabb in 2002, when he led the Eagles to a 4-1 record. Feeley has always been a very good substitute, but in those five starts he threw 5 TDs and 5 INTs, completed 60% of his passes just once, had a low passer rating of 72.6, a paltry average of 6.58 yards per attempt and has 18 points per play. Did the Dolphins even watch a movie of those games? Feeley started eight games for the Dolphins, going 3-5 with 11 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 61.7 passer rating that was the worst in the NFL. Yeah. The Dolphins traded Feeley to the Chargers in 2005 for Cleo Lemon — in a year, his value went from a 2nd-round pick to Cleo Lemon.
When the Chargers released him after the season, the Eagles signed him without giving anything up. Feeley had quite the career as a 5th round pick, playing 11 years for five teams. The Eagles drafted Reggie Brown with the 2nd round pick they got from the Dolphins, and although his career was ultimately disappointing, he had over 2,500 yards and 17 touchdowns in five years with the Eagles. The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since making the trade.
9. Jordan Mailata’s current contracts run until 2025 and assuming he plays at least that long here, that would mean either Tra Thomas, Jason Peters or Jordan Mailata have been handling left tackle for almost the entirety of a spell. 28, the only exception being 2012, when Peters was injured (and King Dunlap and Demetress Bell were the starters), and a few other games here and there due to injuries. Twenty-eight years, three legends.
ten. The Eagles always stayed at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, Virginia the night before games at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., and at the time the batsmen always stayed at the team hotel. 1990 Eagles-Washington was October 21, and early that morning I walked into the hotel gym to work out. Little did I know I was wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt that I had picked up a year earlier to cover La Salle at the NCAA Tournament in South Bend. I was walking down the hall to the elevator after I was done, and I was in this sort of rotunda with the elevators when Jerome Brown saw me. He was looking at me and I didn’t know why. Then I remembered what had happened the day before. Notre Dame defeated Miami 29-20 at South Bend in the Catholics vs. Convicts game. It was at the height of the Miami-Notre Dame rivalry. Remember how Miami upped Notre Dame 58-7 in 1985? And in 1988, both teams were undefeated, with Notre Dame winning 31-30. In 1989, Miami ended Notre Dame’s 23-game winning streak 27-10 at the Orange Bowl in a battle between the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Jerome Brown despised Notre Dame, and the day after that 1990 game, one of the first things he sees is me wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt. Jerome was a great man. He was a strong man. He came up behind me and grabbed me by the shoulders and slammed me against the wall saying, “Why are you wearing that shirt? I mumbled something and he let go of me and I collapsed on the floor, making sure my arms and legs were still in place. Then Jerome helped me up and laughed at that giant belly laugh from Jerome, slapped me on the back and said, “I’m just playing with you houses!”