Eagles’ secondary concern becomes primary, with Rodney McLeod lost to a torn ACL, Avonte Maddox ailing
The Eagles' secondary was severely depleted down the stretch Sunday, and the outlook for the remaining three games doesn't look great.
When Eagles safety Rodney McLeod went out for the coin flip before Sunday’s victory over New Orleans, the defensive captain was assuming the role of benched quarterback Carson Wentz.
McLeod had no idea he was about to inherit Wentz’s luck, as well.
Coach Doug Pederson confirmed Monday that McLeod tore his left ACL midway through the third quarter. He obviously will miss the remainder of this season, and will be hard-pressed to be ready for the start of the 2021 schedule.
The Eagles had lost starting corner Avonte Maddox to a knee injury earlier in the game. Then, as McLeod went to the ground after unsuccessfully blitzing New Orleans quarterback Taysom Hill, who tossed an 11-yard completion to Alvin Kamara, the other starting corner, Darius Slay, tackled Kamara and took an inadvertent elbow to the head. Pederson confirmed Monday that Slay has entered the NFL concussion protocol.
The rest of the game was an adventure for a secondary that suddenly had Jalen Mills, moved from safety, at one corner spot, and practice-squad corner Kevon Seymour, making his Eagles debut, at the other corner, with special-teams standout Marcus Epps at one safety post and rookie K’Von Wallace at the other. Nickell Robey-Coleman was, fittingly, the nickel corner, with Cre’Von LeBlanc still rehabbing his ankle injury. (Pederson indicated Monday that LeBlanc is not close to returning.)
All of New Orleans’ points were scored after Maddox, McLeod, and Slay left the field. When Slay and McLeod went down, Hill was 15-for-20 for just 108 yards, 7.2 yards per completion. After they left the field, Hill went 13-for-18 for 183 yards (14.08 yards per completion) and two touchdowns.
The Eagles were lucky that, as Saints coach Sean Payton noted in his Monday press conference, Hill often held the ball too long; of the five Eagles sacks, three occurred in the final 10 minutes, including the Josh Sweat strip-sack that set up what became the winning touchdown.
» READ MORE: Five reasons for the Eagles’ surprising 24-21 win over the Saints
The remaining quarterbacks on the Eagles’ schedule might not follow Hill’s path. Kyler Murray, the opposing QB this week for host Arizona, has been sacked only 21 times all season.
Any other week, the loss of McLeod would have dominated Pederson’s Monday news conference, but the quarterbacking situation took top billing this time. Pederson said he hoped to get injured corner Michael Jacquet (hamstring) and safety Grayland Arnold (also hamstring) at least back to practice on Wednesday.
“Rodney was a big, vocal leader on this team. I would expect guys like Jalen Mills to step up. I would think guys like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, guys on defense, even Darius Slay, guys really would rally around that, and step up and bring some of these young guys along,” Pederson said.
McLeod, 30, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee Week 3 of the 2018 season, against the Colts. He came back to play 99% of the defensive snaps in 2019, and had played every defensive snap this season, before Sunday.
On the fourth-and-2 strip-sack that led to the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown, Josh Sweat went through both the tackle and the guard to get within pouncing range of Taysom Hill. Sweat, who played just 25 snaps Sunday, has a career-high six sacks and has improved each year since the Eagles drafted him in 2018′s fourth round. Not too many guys around here you can say that about.
Eleven offensive snaps for Travis Fulgham, no targets. Either Fulgham isn’t practicing well, or the coaching staff decided the matchup didn’t suit his skill set.
Kevon Seymour, who played 35 defensive snaps at corner and 15 more special-teams snaps for the Eagles against the Saints, hadn’t played in the NFL since 2017, with Carolina. He was a sixth-round Buffalo draft pick in 2016, from USC.
This week, the Eagles renew their acquaintance with Larry Fitzgerald, who entered the NFL in 2004, along with Jason Peters. Fitzgerald has 45 catches for 346 yards this season, no touchdowns.
The Cards’ DeAndre Hopkins has 94 catches for 1,155 yards. The Eagles’ top three wide receivers -- Greg Ward (46 catches), Travis Fulgham (33 catches), and Jalen Reagor (22 catches) have combined for 1,140 receiving yards.
That bouncing a 22-yard field goal attempt off the left upright at the Linc would make a metallic “bang” sound, like a Buick backing into a shopping mall light pole?
Which high-flying NFL attack has managed the most yards against the Saints defense this season? Would it be the Packers’ offense, in a 37-30 victory? Why, of course not. That would be the offense of the Philadelphia Eagles, with 413 yards Sunday, just as we all envisioned.