The Philadelphia Eagles had a big need at safety this offseason so the team acted quickly in NFL free agency to sign Rodney McLeod. It's not hard to see why the team liked him. A look at McLeod's highlights video shows he's bound to make big plays and big hits. But a highlights video can make almost any player look good. So in order to get more information on McLeod, we reached out to the great Joe McAtee (@3k_) of Turf Show Times in order to learn more about him. Check out our question and answer exchange below.
1) Are Rams fans disappointed the team didn’t keep McLeod? Why or why not?
"I'd say that they are, but that's only because it leaves a huge question mark at the position that McLeod would've reliably filled. He's not a Pro-Bowl caliber free safety, but Super Bowl champions aren't stacked with 53 Pro Bowlers on their roster. They are, though, stacked with players who can consistently hold down their position responsibilities and allow the bigger talents on their side of the ball to make the splash plays. That's who Rodney McLeod is, and that's what Rams fans are largely worried about replacing."
2) What are McLeod’s strengths?
"Well, he's coming from the Rams defense so first and foremost is physicality. The Rams don't run a lot of defenses with just the free safety taking the top off; both McLeod and the Rams' "strong safety" T.J. McDonald were consistently at the back of the secondary with equal responsibilities. That being said, he's not a phenomenal pass defender. And he's not incredibly athletic. He is, though, very intelligent on the field, and that goes back to that angle about letting others play their game. The Rams like to feed the aggression of their corners (see: Janoris Jenkins); that requires the safeties to diagnose plays and assignments quickly and accurately. That's perhaps McLeod's greatest strength is his positioning and general awareness (though to be fair ... we've never seen McLeod separated from MLB James Laurinaitis who similarly leaned on his positioning and awareness as the base of his skill set)."
3) What are McLeod’s weaknesses?
"It's the tangibles. It's why he went undrafted out of Virginia and why he spent his rookie season on special teams duties. He's not going to wow you with speed or acceleration or agility or any of the combine skills. But again, you don't need elite talents everywhere on your roster to succeed. McLeod's the kind of guy you want behind more natural talents (Eric Rowe comes to mind...). And when you don't need to rely on him as the centerpiece of your pass defense, that's what allows him to do his job and do it well."
4) McLeod said the combination of him and Malcolm Jenkins could be one of the best safety duos in the NFL. Based on what you know about McLeod, do you think that’s a fair statement to make?
"Absolutely. Don't need to muck this one up with anything extra. McLeod is reliable game in, game out. Putting him next to a superior talent in Jenkins should certainly give yall one of the better duos in the league."
5) Anything else Eagles fans should know?
"Well, yall put him on a five-year contract, so the key is to keep an eye out for when the athleticism starts to deteriorate. His physicality, including in run support where he's a plus for a FS, isn't going away. At just 25, there's reason to think he could get through all five years and be a reliable piece for you guys into the next decade (whoa...just thought of the 2020s...weird getting old/living in the future vibe...ok, back to football). I just worry that for someone who doesn't have tangibles to lean on, once they start to fade, he's going to become a liability. If that's beyond his 30th birthday, you guys have a piece you can avoid worrying about. If, though, it starts deteriorating (and if it does, it won't be for work habits or off-field BS - Rod's a professional and by all accounts a great locker room guy), the end of his career will come quickly...which will suck because it's easy (and for good reason) to root for the guys who work their way up the league as UDFAs, cash in and get rewarded for their hard work. He's carved out a career that many miss out on because they feel they deserved it. Rod earned it. That's the guy yall just got."