Rodney McLeod Looks Forward After Malcolm Jenkins Departs

Ed Kracz

For six years Malcolm Jenkins was a fixture in the Eagles’ secondary.

No less a part of it was Rodney McLeod.

One is back, the other is not. If you’ve been following along, you know which is which.

“He was a very good player for us for a substantial amount of time here in Philadelphia,” said McLeod during a conference call on Friday, referring to his running mate in the secondary.

“One of the reasons I came to Philly was to play alongside Malcolm and learned a lot from him during his time here. It’s part of the business. It’s unfortunate, but at this point it is what it is, the decision was made so now for us we have to move forward.”

For those trying to formulate the biggest questions facing the Eagles heading into a season that may or not happen, one involving the departure of Jenkins is a near the top or at the top of the list.

McLeod is returning for a fifth season after signing a two-year contract when free agency began last month.

The safety said that he had other options in free agency, but wanted to return to Philly because, he said, “(I) want to continue to play my career here in a city that’s really embraced me that I love dearly and that I had chance to make impact in, and I want to continue to do that. I want to continue to build.

“I feel like there’s more work to be done here, so I’m glad to potentially have an opportunity to finish my career off here and be able to make more impactful plays for this city. The reason we play this game is to bring championships, so I’m looking forward to doing that as well.”

McLeod is one of a dwindling number of players left on the Eagles roster who won a Super Bowl in 2017. Jenkins, of course, was a member of that title-winning team, too.

Jalen Mills, who is expected to line up in Jenkins’ old role as a box safety, started at cornerback when the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, but the position will be mostly new for Mills, even though he played it years ago at LSU.

One thing the Eagles could miss most without Jenkins was his leadership.

“Myself, being a leader on this team for some time, will of course have to step up as well as other guys from the defensive standpoint on the team,” said McLeod. “I think we’re prepared for that and guys will be willing to step up to the plate and accept the challenge.”

Leadership isn’t exactly something that can be taught, but it can be observed, and Jenkins showed what one looks like.

McLeod said he will lead more by example than anything else.

“His legacy will live on,” said McLeod about Jenkins. “The Saints are getting a good guy and now us, as Eagles, we’re with a new group of guys and we’re ready to move forward.”

McLeod said moving forward could prove challenging with the probability that OTAs and minicamp could be cancelled due to the novel coronavirus.

The spring is typically a time when chemistry is built, friendships forged, and the playbook poured over and over.

With a secondary that has been revamped, after the additions of cornerbacks Darius Slay and Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety Will Parks, as well as the transition of Mills to safety, a solid spring worth of work would have been beneficial.

“It’s a weird set of events that have transpired in the world, but we have to have to be able to adapt,” said McLeod, who was then asked if he had thought about getting players together if OTAs are canceled.

“I think that’s something that I have thought about in my own time as I kind of look at the days go by and kind of get an idea as to when we might possibly be back in the building,” said McLeod, “so I’ll take it upon myself to reach out to guys to get a gauge to see how guys feel about that and if that’s something that’s doable with everything that’s going on in the world right now.”