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Rodney McLeod talks Eagles’ safety outlook and his increased leadership role

Plus, the veteran discusses his offseason work with Jalen Mills.

Eagles’ veteran Rodney McLeod spoke to the media on Thursday about Jalen Mills joining him at safety, the standard the secondary is striving to live up to, and his role as a leader — and how that’s changed with Malcolm Jenkins no longer in the locker room.

Here’s what the safety had to say:

On Jalen Mills’ position switch

McLeod said that he and Mills have been able to get a lot of work in, despite a limited offseason. He noted that once they were able to start virtual meetings, not only with their coaches, but they started meeting individually. They watched film together and worked on calls and communication, and were making sure that Mills was seeing things the right way in his new position.

“The hardest part for him is not necessarily the defense, right, like he knows all the schematics — but, it’s now lining up in a different spot.”

So now, Mills needs to know where he needs to have his eyes on certain plays and know where McLeod will be, but the chemistry between them is good and things are going well so far.

Even in just the few days they’ve been together as a unit in training camp, McLeod said Mills has taken things a step further.

On rookie K’Von Wallace

McLeod said that so far the rookie has come to work and that’s what they want to see. Wallace has to “earn his stripes” and his position, but so far he’s doing what he needs to do. He also said that it’s evident in the weight room that Wallace is a leader among the rookie class, and those leadership qualities are important.

On the secondary changes

With the addition of so many experienced secondary players like Darius Slay, McLeod mentioned that they’ll be able to do a lot more matching up, and that’ll make his role as a safety a little easier.

He also talked about the new secondary coach, Marquand Manuel (Coach M), and McLeod said that, despite being virtual leading up to training camp, things have gone a lot smoother than he anticipated. The two have history dating back to McLeod playing in the East-West Shrine Game, but it’s been going well with the rest of the players as well.

“As far as the rest of the group, it’s been seamless.”

McLeod went on to say that he thinks that people respect Manuel because of his experience, his passion, the way he coaches the group, and his expectations for the group. The Eagles secondary is looking to be respected as one of the best in the league.

He was later asked whether they felt disrespected as a group, and McLeod admitted that they felt that way at times last season, but they have a high standard to live up to as the secondary for the Philadelphia Eagles. They owe the guys who came before them — McLeod mentioned Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, and Malcolm Jenkins — to get back to being the unit that can put the team on their back.

On his role as a leader

McLeod said he’s always been a leader, albeit in a different way when Malcolm Jenkins was still in the building, but he found a different way to lead.

“And now, with the absence of Malcolm, I will be needed to be a lot more vocal. Particularly in the defensive back room, and on the team.”

He noted that when leaders leave, it’s up to others to step up and he’s eager to see the guys who do that this year.

On COVID and opt-outs

The veteran said that opting out was a conversation he had with his wife, but he thinks that with the precautions they have at the facility, they felt confident that it was one of the safer environments that he could be in. But, he also fully understands and supports the decision made by Marquise Goodwin.

On offseason surgery

Head coach Doug Pederson mentioned McLeod when talking about injured players returning to Philly. When asked about it, McLeod said he just had some “general maintenance work from the season,” but nothing too serious. He didn’t want to get into specifics, but said he’ll be ready Week 1.

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