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Rodney McLeod Passed Important Test vs. Chiefs

Look for the Eagles veteran safety to take back his leadership role in the Eagles' secondary over the coming weeks

PHILADELPHIA - You gotta dig deep to find the positives on the defensive side of the football when it came to the Eagles' performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4.

Topping the short list, however, had to be the return of Rodney McLeod to the lineup for the first time since the veteran safety tore his ACL against New Orleans on Dec. 13 of last year.

McLeod started next to his old college teammate, Anthony Harris, on the back end of Jonathan Gannon's defense against the Chiefs and made 4 tackles while playing 48 of 67 defensive snaps (72 percent of the team's total).

"Most importantly the goal was to get out of the game with no [physical] setbacks," McLeod told SI.com's EagleMaven before practice on Thursday. "I can say that happened. ... it was just good to get out there with the guys.

"Obviously, the outcome wasn't what I was hoping for but personally I can say I made a good step and now it's on to the next game."

"I was happy for him," added Harris when discussing McLeod, a player who was once the former NFL interception leader's mentor when the two crossed paths at the University of Virginia.

"Facing a ton of adversity mentally, physically, what he’s been through to battle back. That was one thing I was excited about to see him get back out there on the field, run through that tunnel, and experience all that in the game."

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From a team perspective, any time the defense allows 42 points and 471 total yards it's hard to spin it as a successful afternoon, but McLeod viewed a first test against Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Co. as a valuable measuring stick.

"I feel that was a huge test for me against a team like Kansas City," he said. "They're not gonna stop. They're gonna throw a lot at you. They have great skill groups. I wanted to put [the knee] to the test early and I think I checked all the boxes."

Moving forward, McLeod has now overcome a mental hurdle and the outlier of the NFL's most explosive offense. On the latter, that's means easier days are on the horizon.

"I think we understand last week was not like us," McLeod said. "I think we've established a defensive culture here and last week we didn't really live up to those standards. I think we understand what our standards need to be and we fell short of that last week and so we're moving forward and looking forward to going out there in Carolina and getting a win."

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Rodney McLeod at Eagles practice on Aug. 7, 2021

Rodney McLeod

The first step to halting a three-game skid came on "Warrior Wednesday."

"We know we have to be better in a lot of areas, all correctable, and at the end of the day, us as players make this thing go so it's on us to make that decision and come up with a win next week," said McLeod. "Gotta good first day (Wednesday), Warrior Wednesday is what we call it and now we're moving on to (Thursday) to get better."

Typically a full-time player, McLeod admitted the rotation with Marcus Epps against the Chiefs took some adjusting.

"It was weird," McLeod admitted of his pitch count. "I think what was comforting to me was, understanding that going into it I knew, so I was able to mentally prepare. ... I just made the most of my reps. That's all you can do, made the most of my opportunities."

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McLeod's playing time figures to increase as he works on the chemistry with Harris.

"We sit next to each other in the meetings so we talk ball a lot which is very helpful," McLeod said. "We see the game the same and like I said our relationship extends outside of this so it was very easy to get back in the mix, work alongside a guy like Ant. We're only gonna build, chemistry is going to get better from last game."

Harris is happy to have McLeod back while easing out of a hand-holding environment with younger safeties like Epps and the now-injured K'Von Wallace.

"Having [McLeod] out there makes a difference in terms of his communication," Harris said. "He’s played a lot of football. He’s communicating the personnel. He’s communicating the down and distance. He just helps us speed the process up in terms of communicating with myself and everybody else on the field as well."

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.