Eagles Super Bowl Champion Emerging as ‘Secret Weapon’ for Browns

Getty Rodney McLeod of the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s been almost two years since Rodney McLeod was wearing the C on his chest for the Philadelphia Eagles and rallying the troops. The one-time Super Bowl champion was one of the most respected guys on the roster, a true leader on and off the field.

While McLeod’s voice was still being heard loud and clear, the Eagles wanted to get younger at the safety position. They also wanted to free up some salary cap space. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency and recorded 96 tackles in 2022. Now, the 32-year-old has joined the Cleveland Browns where he’s already exerting his leadership in that locker room.

McLeod isn’t expected to own a starting role, although he has been called a candidate to be a “secret weapon” in the secondary as he reunites with former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Irie Harris of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote:

McLeod contains two elements that separates him from most of the Browns defense: his tackling ability and past experience in Jim Schwartz’s defense. He’s consistently had a knack for tackling, something the Browns had trouble with during 2022 by finishing 30th in Pro Football Focus tackle grading (40.6). McLeod set a new career high with the Colts in tackles (96) in 2022, and his highest tackle grade (77.2) since 2015.

And prior to that, from 2013-16, McLeod recorded more than 70 tackles per season. Among safeties in 2015, he ranked 21st in tackle grade (79.4) and top 10 in run defense (85.0).

‘Culture Setter’ Takes the Reins in Cleveland

Schwartz was the architect of the 2017 Super Bowl defense in Philly under head coach Doug Pederson. He helped unleash McLeod that year and for five of the safety’s six seasons in a midnight green uniform. They developed a bond. They earned each other’s respect. And they helped shift the culture by winning a lot of football games, something the duo hopes to replicate in Cleveland. Schwartz was hired to be the Browns’ new defensive coordinator on January 17.

“You could tell (Schwartz is) a culture shifter, and so I feel like that’s needed,” McLeod said, via Dan Labbe. “He’s going to demand excellence and just an amazing guy. He holds everybody to a very high standard, and that’s what you need in this business to win. And so I think he’s already established that here.”

Ex-Eagle Marcus Epps Ready to Star for Raiders

The Eagles let both their starting safeties from 2022 walk in free agency, including Marcus Epps. He inked a 2-year, $12 million deal — including an extra $880,384 in performance-based pay distributions — this offseason with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Epps is expected to start alongside Tre’von Moehrig this season for the Raiders and prove he was more than just a one-year wonder after seeing a career-high 1,095 snaps last year in Philadelphia.

“I always want to feel like I have something to prove,” Epps said, via Raiders Today. “I never want to be complacent, I always want to keep that hunger and keep that drive, and keep working to strive for more. I feel like I can play free or strong [safety], I feel like I can slide down in the slot and play nickel if I ever needed to.”

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