Eagles Lose Standout Defensive Starter for Season

Rodney McLeod

Getty Eagles starting safety Rodney McLeod has taken leadership of the secondary and the Social Justice Committee in Philly.

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns following the Philadelphia Eagles’ 24-21 upset win. The team saw an unfortunate number of players go out with injuries on Sunday, including one of their defensive leaders.

Starting safety Rodney McLeod left the game in the third quarter after laying on the turf and clutching his knee. He was on the field for 35 snaps before exiting. Rookie K’Von Wallace (28 snaps) and veteran Marcus Epps (35) took turns replacing him. Jalen Mills had to slide over to cornerback with starters Darius Slay (head) and Avonte Maddox (knee) out.

McLeod is officially out for the rest of the 2020 season after an MRI revealed a torn ACL. Earlier in the day, NBC Sports’ John Clark reported the 30-year-old may have suffered a “serious knee injury” and then Doug Pederson confirmed it. McLeod, a team captain and vocal leader, is only two years removed from season-ending surgery on a torn MCL.

“Rodney McLeod, I can say he’s going to miss the rest of the season,” Pederson told reporters on Monday. “Torn ACL. Showed up on the exam again this morning. Unfortunate with him that he’s going to miss the remainder of this season.”

The Eagles were down to just five active defensive backs against the New Orleans Saints: Mills, Wallace, Epps, Nickell Robey-Coleman, plus elevated practice-squad members Jameson Houston and Kevon Seymour. They came into Week 14 already down backup cornerback Michael Jacquet (hamstring) and reserve safety Rudy Ford (hamstring).

In addition, the team watched defensive tackle Malik Jackson go out with a concussion while defensive end Derek Barnett came out for a few snaps after getting shaken up.

“This win is about this team and how resilient this team is,” Pederson told reporters after the game. “We went through it again today, injuries piled up a little bit in the second half. Guys stayed strong. He [Jalen Hurts] obviously was a part of the win, but my hat’s off to a lot of guys in this football game.”

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Josh Sweat’s Coming Out Party

The hype around Josh Sweat has been building for a full two years, with Eagles All-Pro tackle Lane Johnson once comparing him to Jadeveon Clowney. Well, the team’s patience in the 251-pounder is finally paying off.

Sweat enjoyed his finest game in midnight green on Sunday after racking up two sacks and five tackles (two for loss). His strip-sack late in the fourth quarter — recovered by ever-improving defensive tackle Javon Hargrave — led to the eventual game-winning touchdown on a one-yard run by Miles Sanders.

“Something just made me keep running and he held on to the ball and I pretty much saw an opportunity to strip the ball out,” Sweat told reporters on Sunday. “I thought I was going to get the recovery but good thing my boy was there.”

Sweat, a fourth-round pick out of Florida State, now has a career-high six sacks on the year along with 38 tackles and 11 quarterback hits. The Eagles appear to have found their third edge rusher behind Brandon Graham and Barnett. He’s not scheduled to become a free agent until 2022 but Philly may want to lock him up early.

“Before every game, throughout the week we always say to ourselves we’re going to be the engine,” Sweat said of the Eagles’ defensive line. “Everybody going to feed off of us. We put it on ourselves anyways.”

Duke Riley Announces Presence

Duke Riley was only credited with six tackles in the box score but he was arguably the best defender on the field. The special-teams ace turned starting linebacker was buzzing around the football for all four quarters, highlighted by his second-quarter interception. That play set up a 44-yard field goal from Jake Elliott.

“Honestly, I give all credit to Jim Schwartz on that, on my interception,” Riley said of his defensive coordinator. “He called a great call, he put me in the right position to be in that spot for the play. So as soon as I caught the ball I ran on the sideline and gave it to him.”

The ball was actually tipped by Mills before finding its way into Riley’s arms. He also chipped in with one pass breakup versus New Orleans, his hometown. Riley has 54 total tackles in 2020, plus one forced fumble and 0.5 sacks.

“I don’t think we did anything different than we usually do,” Riley said. “I think we come to practice to work every day whether it’s defense, offense, special teams. Our thing is to win every day.”


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