Philadelphia Eagles: Rodney McLeod is still out with a knee injury

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /

When Rodney McLeod went down with a torn ACL 35 snaps into the Philadelphia Eagles‘ Week 14 win over the New Orleans Saints last season, it left many a sad onlooker in the City of Brotherly Love.

It goes without saying that losing McLeod at that point in the season was tough, as the Birds weren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs yet and could have used any help they could get to overcome the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Football Team down the stretch, but the injury really hurt because it put his 2021 season into question too.

You see, ACL injuries typically take a year to fully heal, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Because his injury didn’t happen until midway through the month of December, many assumed that McLeod was a borderline lock to miss at least some time in the final year of his two-year, $8.65 million contract.

Many, except for McLeod, who declared that he would be back in 2021 “10 toes down standing like a giant.”

Could that still happen? Most definitely, McLeod has returned to the practice field and was a limited participant as recently as Saturday, but two days later, with a bout against the Dallas Cowboys on the books, it won’t happen in Week 3, as he’s been scratched from action by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Let’s hope Rodney McLeod has a big October for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Heading into the 2021 NFL season, safety was supposed to be one of the Philadelphia Eagles’ strengths.

They had a veteran leader who’d been with the team since 2016, a prized free agent who led the league in interceptions a few years prior, a former fourth-round pick about to enter his sophomore pro season and a seemingly uncuttable utility man by the name of Marcus Epps who was initially drafted into the Minnesota Vikings’ scheme back in 2019.

Factor in waiver wire claim Andre Chachere, who can effectively play any position in the secondary, and you’re left with an absolute unit that can hang with the best.

The only problem? All five of them have yet to be active for the same game so far this season.

Sure, Harris has proven himself a variable ironman for the Eagles so far this season, as he’s played all 142 of the team’s defensive snaps through the first two games of the regular season. While he’s yet to fully showcase his playmaking abilities in the defensive secondary, as the Eagles’ entire defense remains maddeningly turnover-less through two games, it’s hard to knock any player who has only allowed 24 yards on three catches despite being targeted nine times.

When you have zero missed takes on 13 attempts as a safety, it’s hard to be too critical of being out of position every now and then.

And then there’s Epps, who earned the initial Week 1 start in place of McLeod before suffering an injury eight snaps into the game. While Epps has allowed all four of the targets thrown his way to be completed, they only accounted for 60 yards and zero touchdowns through 40 pays of action, with only one missed tackle on five attempts and three yards after the catch to his credit.

Had Epps remained fully healthy, maybe he’d have a snap count closer to Harris than McLeod, but his absence opened the door for K’Von Wallace to finally take on an expansive role.

After entering Week 1 as the team’s third safety, Wallace played 64 defensive snaps in Week 1 plus 40 more in his first start of the season in Week 2. Though he’s only been targeted twice in coverage, Wallace has held opposing quarterbacks to a pass rating of 58.3 while allowing six yards after the catch versus seven total yards in addition to five made tackles on six attempts.

If Wallace can turn in a good showing against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, maybe his role won’t completely diminish when McLeod returns to the field or when Chachere finally makes the leap from only-special teamer to defensive contributor.

But frankly, the biggest boon the Eagles defensive could receive moving forward is the news that McLeod is finally cleared to return to the field full time, as he really is the team’s most reliable safety and could free up Harris to play looser with a second veteran deployed deep.

Next. Avonte Maddox has to show up big versus Dallas. dark

Will Rodney McLeod be perfect when he returns to the field? No. He hasn’t played in a two-high safety scheme over his entire tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles and will surely suffer some growing pains when he again takes the field. But at this point, he’s unquestionably one of the team’s top-two options at the safety spot, even if K’Von Wallace has a golden opportunity to close that gap in the immediate future.