New Eagle Cre’Von LeBlanc hopes to learn at least a nickel’s worth of the playbook quickly
After his first practice, new corner said he hopes to catch on fast.
Cre'Von LeBlanc said he thought the Eagles were a "phenomenal team" last year, when he played nickel corner against them for the Chicago Bears, losing 31-3 on Nov. 26.
He recalled that Carson Wentz "got me once" on a blitz, though LeBlanc was the Bears' leading tackler that day, with six solo stops and an assist. LeBlanc also forced a Jay Ajayi fumble that Nelson Agholor recovered in the end zone for the Eagles' final touchdown.
Wednesday, LeBlanc practiced as an Eagle for the first time, two days after the defending Super Bowl champions claimed him off waivers from the Detroit Lions.
Adjusting to such immediate, huge changes is "part of the game," noted LeBlanc, who played three games for the Lions this season but was waived before last Sunday's loss to the Vikings.
LeBlanc, 24, said the Eagles use "similar terminology" to the Lions. His understanding is that he will play "nickel and wherever they need me. I have a lot of experience at nickel – I played it in Chicago," where LeBlanc played in 28 games in 2016 and 2017, starting 10.
LeBlanc said his approach leading up to Sunday night's visit from the Dallas Cowboys would be to "pound the playbook as much as I can, get familiar with it as much as I can. … Keep pounding it in my head. If I'm out there, I'll try to do it to the best of my ability."
It's unclear how much the Eagles will want to use LeBlanc in the defense this week, after only a few practices. A nickel corner has to work well with the safeties and the outside corners, has to understand where everyone will be. That is quite a lot to ask of one week of work.
Asked the keys to effective nickel play, LeBlanc mentioned "knowing who you're out there with – communication, that's big."
Defensive backs coach Cory Undlin seemed to play down the idea of LeBlanc jumping right in, when Undlin spoke with reporters Tuesday. Undlin said he couldn't project how LeBlanc might be used until he actually met the guy.
The Eagles created roster room for LeBlanc by releasing Dexter McDougle, who played nickel against Jacksonville in the last game before the bye week, McDougle logging 58 of a possible 64 defensive snaps. This has led some observers to conclude that LeBlanc will play McDougle's role right away, since McDougle jumped right into the fray, when the Eagles picked him up off the street following Sidney Jones' hamstring injury, suffered against the Giants Oct. 11. But McDougle knew the defense, had played eight games for the Eagles in 2017.
It seems more likely that with safety Corey Graham's hamstring healed, Avonte Maddox will move back down into the nickel spot, with Graham starting opposite Malcolm Jenkins.
Eagles practice squad wide receiver Braxton Miller will be reunited with one of his closest friends this weekend, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott. Miller and Elliott are two of the biggest stars of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State.
Miller was the starting quarterback from 2011-13, missed the national championship 2014 season with a shoulder, then returned as a wide receiver in 2015, before being drafted by the Texans in 2016's third round. Elliott, the MVP of the national championship game and the school's No. 2 all-time leading rusher, played for the Buckeyes from 2013-15 and was the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft by Dallas.
"That's my guy, that's family," Miller said Wednesday. "He's nonstop, man, he can go all day. His motor is unbelievable. … I knew I could count on him to play four quarters straight without getting tired. He's never going to stop, never going to give up."
Asked what he did with all the ducks he and Mike Trout shot during their bye-week hunting trip, Carson Wentz said: "Jerky." … Sidney Jones worked out on the side with a trainer Wednesday and said he hopes his hamstring will be healed for him to play Nov. 18 at New Orleans. … Wide receiver Mike Wallace, who broke his right fibula in the Week 2 loss at Tampa, was in the locker room wearing a walking boot Wednesday. It seems possible the team could bring Wallace back from IR in a month or so.