One of the unsung heroes from the Philadelphia Eagles’ Wild Card win over the Chicago Bears was the guy who actually discovered the unsung heroes who made critical plays in that game. I’m talking about Eagles director of pro scouting Dwayne Joseph.
Part of Joseph’s responsibility is to help the Eagles make good in-season roster additions. It’s not an easy task considering available free agents are usually out of work for good reason. They’re often just not talented enough to really help out.
There are some exceptions, though, and the Eagles have done an exceptional job at finding guys who can help this team win games. In Sunday’s game alone, three players who weren’t even on the Eagles’ original 53-man roster made significant contributions to Philly’s win: Treyvon Hester, Cre’Von LeBlanc, and Jordan Matthews.
Let’s start with the hero of the game: the guy who partially blocked Cody Parkey’s final field goal attempt.
Since joining the big club, Hester has logged 13 tackles, three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, and one sack. That’s decent production for a backup defensive tackle who has played 21.77% of Philly’s defensive snaps.
Believe it or not, Hester actually ranks 14th out of 121 interior defensive linemen graded by PFF this season. He’s actually the third highest graded defender on the Eagles’ entire defense, which ... huh?
At the very least, the 26-year-old Hester has been a solid rotational defensive lineman who helped stabilize the position with Tim Jernigan and Haloti Ngata dealing with injuries early in the season.
His hand also helped keep the Eagles’ 2019 playoff run alive.
That just shows you, again, those little, tiny things, the fingertip can make all the difference between this being an end-of-the-season wrap-up and continuing to play.
But Treyvon has come up big for us. That was another pick up by our scouts. He was on practice squad and we had a lot of injuries. With all the notice of our secondary and where they were injury wise, we were in a tough spot defensive tackle wise, too. But [DT] Haloti Ngata getting healthy, getting Timmy [Jernigan] back like we just mentioned and getting contributions from a guy like Treyvon, who didn’t play a ton in this game. I think he played about a dozen snaps, but he was out there and got his hand up and did what he was supposed to do at the right time and we were able to get the win.
Leading up to Week 10, the Eagles found themselves in need of help in the secondary. Starting nickel corner Sidney Jones was dealing with a nagging hamstring issue and Jalen Mills had just suffered an ankle injury prior to the Week 9 bye. Dexter McDougle was also struggling mightily in relief of Jones.
So, the Eagles cut McDougle and picked LeBlanc off waivers from the Lions. The man they call “Strap” was quickly forced into playing time and he’s since really stabilized the secondary. Jim Schwartz has been raving about him:
I don’t know where we’d be without Cre’Von. Our scouts, midway through the season, [Vice President of Player Personnel] Joe Douglas came to me and said, “Hey look, there’s this guy that just became available and our scouts have a good feel for him.”
And guys like [Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Howie [Roseman] and Joe, they are up front, but some of those guys that work in those back rooms without a light, without a window and stuff like that and they are pouring overall these guys that get cut or go somewhere else. Well, that might have been the key to our season putting the waiver claim in on -- I had never heard of Cre’Von LeBlanc before and they brought him and said, “Hey, we’re thinking about claiming this guy,” and it was right before the Saints game last time we were able to click him in. But he had his times, also. It wasn’t all just Nigel and Malcolm. Cre’Von had a big part of it and it was a team effort trying to keep him down. We knew how dangerous he was. You could see that on the last kickoff. That’s a guy where if you give him a quarter of an inch or one guy misses a tackle, he can make you pay, and I was proud of the guys, the way they played against him.
Honestly, I didn’t look [at his tape] very much. Those [Eagles pro personnel] guys did all the heavy lifting on that. We had played against him last year. My exposure was only watching our game against Chicago last year and watching him against guys like [WR] Alshon [Jeffery] and if you remember, they were down significantly in that game and I think it was Alshon that called a ball, maybe it was Nelly [WR Nelson Agholor], and he went hustling down and caused a fumble around the goal line. When the game was sort of out of hand and everything, you could tell what a competitor he was.
But honestly, coaches really had very little to do with that. That was our scouting staff and particularly some of those pro scouts that aren’t guys that are up on podiums a lot of times. We owe a lot of our season to that.
LeBlanc had three solo tackles and one big pass breakup against his former team in Chicago. The breakup came on that weird play where Anthony Miller caught the ball and LeBlanc ripped it out but it was (correctly) called incomplete due to no clear recovery. The Bears had to settle for a field goal on that drive instead of having a better chance for a red zone touchdown.
Strap, who turns 25 in July, is already under contract for the Eagles in 2019 with a mere $720,000 cap figure. That’s an absolute bargain. Given the way he’s played, LeBlanc could realistically be the Eagles’ starting nickel corner next season (and possibly beyond).
OK, so it’s not like was some genius finding because the Eagles already knew who JMatt was. Still, the pro personnel deserves credit for making the right decision to re-sign him.
Matthews was miscast as a massive volume target to run the offense through in his previous stint with Philly. He’s been much more efficient in his return to the organization that drafted him in 2014. Matthews finished the regular season with 20 receptions for 300 yards (team leading 15.0 average) and two touchdowns. He was a good role player in the offense.
JMatt didn’t have a catch in Chicago but he did do a great job of drawing a 33-yard defensive pass interference penalty to set the Eagles up at 1st-and-goal from the Bears’ 10-yard line. On the very next play, Nick Foles hit Dallas Goedert for one of the only two touchdowns the Eagles scored.