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In Roob's Eagles Observations: The free agent Eagles have to bring back


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In Roob's Eagles Observations: The free agent Eagles have to bring back


A veteran I changed my mind about, why Shady is a Hall of Famer and my favorite Jerome Brown story.

All that and more in this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations.

1. If you asked me with seven or eight weeks left in the season whether the Eagles should bring back Rodney McLeod, I would have said no way. McLeod looked old and lumbering. He was almost a year removed from that torn ACL but at 31 and coming off two torn ACLs in three years, it looked like he had lost about three steps. It wasn't out of a lack of effort, because nobody can ever question Rodney McLeod's effort. But he legitimately looked like he was at the end of the line in his 10th season. Hey, it happens.

Then Jonathan Gannon began cutting his snaps. After playing 100 percent of the snaps in almost every game he played since he got here in 2016, McLeod played about 75 percent down the stretch. And his body responded. He started moving better. He started making more plays. He was able to be physical because he was physically able to get into position to be physical. With the Eagles sputtering in the third quarter of a Week 15 must-win against the Giants, his interception and 24-yard return set up the Eagles' first TD, a Boston Scott run. A week later, his diving INT in the end zone against Washington essentially saved the season.

The McLeod we saw late in the season, I want that guy back. Anthony Harris won't be here in 2022, Marcus Epps is a nice player but probably best suited to be a rotational guy, and who knows about K'Von Wallace. It's not easy to replace two starting safeties in one offseason. McLeod is a free agent, but I want to see the Eagles bring him back if McLeod is willing to do another one-year deal. And why wouldn't he? At 31, he's not likely to command a multi-year big-money deal on the open market. He's made it clear he wants to be here, he's a big-time leader, he's deeply involved in the community and he won't break the bank. He showed he can still play. Give me one more year of Rodney.

2. With DeVonta Smith starting 16 games and Landon Dickerson 13, this was the first time in more than a quarter of a century that the Eagles' 1st- and 2nd-round picks both started at least 12 games. In 1995, 1st-round pick Mike Mamula started 13 and 2nd-round pick Barrett Brooks -- NBC Sports Philadelphia's own -- started 16. The only other times it happened were 1957 (Clarence Peaks, Billy Ray Barnes) and 1988 (Keith Jackson and Eric Allen). 

3. Eight reasons LeSean McCoy will be a Hall of Famer: 1) During the decade from 2010 to 2019, he made six Pro Bowls. No other RB made more than four; 2) During the 2010s, he rushed for 10,434 yards and nobody else was within 600 yards; 3) During the 2010s, his 13,923 scrimmage yards were more than 2,000 more than any other running back; 4) During the 2010s, his 463 receptions were 2nd-most among all NFL running backs (three behind Darren Sproles); 5) Of the 22 RBs in NFL history with 11,000 rushing yards, his 4.5 rushing average is 6th-highest; 6) He's one of only five RBs ever with 11,000 rushing yards and 500 receptions. Four others are in the Hall of Fame. Shady has a higher rushing average than all of them; 7) Over the last 50 years, only 10 running backs have made six Pro Bowls. All are in the Hall of Fame except Adrian Peterson, who will be when he's eligible; 8 ) Shady's 4.5 career average is higher than 23 of 30 Hall of Fame running backs.

4. When the Washington Commanders hired Juan Castillo on Friday, they became the fifth team he's coached with since he broke in with the Eagles in 1995. The head coaches he's worked for since Andy Reid fired him six games into the 2012 season? John Harbaugh, Sean McDermott, Matt Nagy and now Ron Rivera. All four coached with Castillo under Reid. This is the impact of the Andy Reid Coaching Tree. The relationships all these guys built up over the years are pretty powerful. Rivera and Castillo haven't worked together since 2003, but 19 years later Rivera didn't hesitate to hire him. 

5. The Corey Clement Super Bowl performance remains one of the craziest things that's ever happened in the history of the world. Clement has played 67 NFL games. He had 100 receiving yards in the Super Bowl and has averaged 6.6 yards in all his other games. He had more yards on that 55-yard catch-and-run from Nick Foles to set up the Philly Special than he's had in any other entire game. And that remains the longest pass play in the last nine Super Bowls. It's insane that Clement -- a 3rd-string undrafted rookie -- had a hand in three of the biggest plays in the Super Bowl: his miracle 22-yard touchdown, the 55-yarder and the Philly Special. What a performance. What a story.

6. I was happy to see that the Raiders signed Cre'Von LeBlanc on Friday. I'm still convinced Cre'von can play if he can get in the right situation and stay healthy. He's a tough, physical, smart, instinctive slot corner. The problem has been injuries. He's played only 13 games the last three years and that's not all injuries but also just waiting for a shot. Strap was huge down the stretch and in the playoffs here in 2018 but has barely played since. Since his last snap -- Week 10 of the 2020 season -- LeBlanc has spent time with the Eagles, Dolphins, Texans and now the Raiders. He's still only 27, and the Raiders' director of pro personnel is Dwayne Joseph, who was with the Eagles from 2015 through 2019, so he knows what LeBlanc is capable of. This is life as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic. Lots of bouncing around, lots of waiting for an opportunity, lots of trying to get noticed. Hopefully, LeBlanc puts it together in Vegas.

7. Quez Watkins has 753 career receiving yards. Every other WR the Eagles have drafted in the 6th round in franchise history has 14 career receiving yards as an Eagle. 

8. The Eagles got 2nd- and 4th-round picks from Washington for Donovan McNabb, a 2nd-round pick for Kevin Kolb, 1st- and 4th-round picks for Sam Bradford and now 1st- and 3rd-round picks for Carson Wentz. All of which is insane and kind of hilarious. But the Eagles' ultimate QB trade thievery came back in March of 2004 when they somehow conned the Dolphins into trading the Eagles a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley. The Dolphins coveted Feeley based on five starts he made in place of injured McNabb in 2002, when he led the Eagles to a 4-1 record. Feeley was always a very good backup, but in those five starts he threw 5 TDs and 5 INTs, completed 60 percent of his passes only once, had a lowly 72.6 passer rating, averaged a paltry 6.58 yards per attempt and put up 18 points per game. Did the Dolphins even watch film of those games? Feeley started eight games for the Dolphins, going 3-5 with 11 TDs, 15 INTs and a 61.7 passer rating that was worst in the NFL. Yikes. The Dolphins traded Feeley to the Chargers in 2005 for Cleo Lemon -- in one year his value went from a 2nd-round pick to Cleo Lemon.

When the Chargers released him after the season, the Eagles signed him without giving up anything. Feeley had a heck of a career as a 5th-round pick, playing 11 years for five teams. The Eagles drafted Reggie Brown with the 2nd-round pick they got from the Dolphins, and although his career was ultimately disappointing, he did have over 2,500 yards and 17 TDs in five years with the Eagles. The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since they made that trade.

9. Jordan Mailata's current contracts run through 2025 and assuming he plays at least that long here, that would mean either Tra Thomas, Jason Peters or Jordan Mailata has manned left tackle for virtually all of a 28-year period, the only exception being 2012, when Peters was hurt (and King Dunlap and Demetress Bell were the starters), and a few other games here and there because of injuries. Twenty-eight years, three legends.

10. The Eagles used to always stay at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, Va., the night before games at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., and back then the beat guys would always stay in the team hotel. In 1990, Eagles-Washington was on Oct. 21, and early that morning I wandered over to the hotel gym for a workout. I didn't realize I was wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt that I had picked up a year earlier covering La Salle in the NCAA Tournament in South Bend. I was walking through the lobby to the elevator after I finished, and I was in this kind of rotunda with the elevators when Jerome Brown saw me. He was glaring at me and I had no idea why. Then I remembered what happened the day before. Notre Dame had beaten Miami 29-20 in South Bend in the Catholics vs. Convicts game. This was at the height of the Miami-Notre Dame rivalry. Remember how Miami ran up the score on Notre Dame 58-7 in 1985? And in 1988, both teams were undefeated, Notre Dame winning 31-30. In 1989, Miami ended Notre Dame's 23-game winning streak 27-10 at the Orange Bowl in a battle of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. Jerome Brown despised Notre Dame, and the morning after that 1990 game one of the first things he sees is me in a Notre Dame t-shirt. Jerome was a large man. He was a strong man. He came up behind me and picked me up by my shoulders and slammed me against the wall, saying, "Why are you wearing that shirt?" I mumbled something and he let go of me and I crumpled down to the floor, making sure my arms and legs were still in place. Then Jerome helped me up and laughed that giant Jerome belly laugh, smacked me on the back and said, "I'm just playing with you, homes!"


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