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Rodney McLeod: "We Go As He Goes. He's Our Leader"

The veteran safety had plenty of praise for QB Jalen Hurts, whose leadership, red-zone play, and ability to convert first downs has the Eagles surging
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PHILADELPHIA – This is Rodney Mcleod’s 10th year in the NFL.

He has seen a lot, heard plenty, and accomplished much, including a Super Bowl championship in 2017 with the Eagles.

So, when he suggested that Jalen Hurts start being a more vocal leader in recent weeks, it carried some extra weight.

“I felt that it was time for him, for us to hear from him,” said the Eagles’ safety earlier in the week. “And Jalen, man, has been a strong voice in this locker room and for this team since the beginning, honestly.

“We go as he goes. He’s a leader. He’s a warrior. He’s exemplified that in a lot of ways, but more importantly through his actions. So, when he speaks, we listen. I felt, man, look, the team needs to hear from you right now, and let’s keep this thing going. Well said, and he’s going to continue to show up and work and we’re going to continue to follow him.”

Hurts is in a position to lead the Eagles into the playoffs. They will take a two-game winning streak into North Jersey to play the Giants on Sunday (1 p.m./FOX).

The Eagles can ill-afford many missteps this late in the season. 

With six games to go, they have to win four in order to finish a smudge above .500 at 9-8, and that may just be enough to make a postseason tournament that has an extra wildcard to hand out in each conference.

Hurts may not be counted on to do as much as he was earlier in the season due to an off-the-charts running game and some may still wonder if he can accurately throw the ball on a consistent basis, but Hurts has come up big in so many other ways.

There is his improved play on third down, his season-long efficiency in the red zone, and the leadership, something he talked about on Friday.

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“It’s always been just me being me,” he said. “I’ve never had a label for it. I’ve never had a name for it. It’s just go out there and be myself. I’ve been granted the opportunity to lead this football team, and I hold it to a high value, and it’s something I take very seriously, and it’s important to me. I want to set the right example for everybody. I want to do the right thing.”

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There was a report this week that Hurts took his offensive teammates out, individually, to talk not so much about football but life.

“I hold a lot of value in building relationships with the guys around me and the guys I’m around and getting to know them,” he said. “I know in the offseason, whether it’s been in Philadelphia, or whether it’s been in Florida, Texas, wherever it was, there was a lot of time put into building those relationships, getting the work in, learning each other, and just growing together, knowing all the youth we have.”

Hurts has done the right thing in the red zone this year, too.

In 11 games, he has completed 60.4 percent of his passes inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a 112.1 rating in that confined area of the field to along with 26 runs for 94 yards and seven touchdowns.

By comparison, the QB on the opposite sideline on Sunday, New York’s Daniel Jones, has completed 40.5 percent of his red-zone throws for just 69 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He has a QB rating of 84.4 with 11 rushes, 42 yards, and two scores.

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His game seems to elevate on third down, especially lately.

During the recent four-game stretch that has seen the Eagles go 3-1, Hurts and the offense have converted 55 percent of their third downs. Their 46.1 percent for the season is fourth-best in the NFL.

Against the Saints last week, Hurts was astounding on the money down.

He accounted for 11 of the 12 third-down conversions in 21 tries, with six rushing first downs and 6-for-10 passing for 95 yards and another five first downs.

“I think overall execution has been better,” said Hurts. “I know a football team playing us, trying to defend us, they have a lot to worry about with the receivers we have, the running game we have, and the ability to extend and do all those things. I

"It’s been something that’s been good for us. We just want to continue to play at a high level and be consistent with it.”

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.