On the first play of the seven-on-seven pass period today at the Eagles practice, safety Rodney McLeod walked up on Birds wide receiver Nelson Agholor then blanketed him down the sideline and gave him no chance to catch the pass thrown by quarterback Sam Bradford. I had to look twice to see who was covering him. McLeod is a safety not a corner, but you couldn’t tell it on that play.
This is one of the reasons new Birds defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz couldn’t avoid celebrating his talented safety tandem of McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins before they’ve even stepped on the field together in a pre-season or regular season game.
These guys are two Pro Bowl quality players. They’re both in the peak years of their career and Schwartz is going to take advantage of their skills. Each of them is talented in addition to being tough, smart and driven.
“I’m sort of violating my rule of judging too much into this time of year, saying linemen need the pads on before we can judge, rookies let’s not judge yet,” said Schwartz. “But both [Jenkins and McLeod] are veteran players. And you can see that right away that both are multi-dimensional. They communicate very well, cover a lot of ground. They can blitz, they can play man (coverage), they can play zone. I’d be very surprised as the year went along if they’re not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They’ve been very impressive so far.”
I also agree with Schwartz on his evaluation of rookie defensive back Jalen Mills. The young man has good size for a corner. He does a good job of playing man to man out of a press technique. I watched him do a good job of competing for the football in the seven-on-seven work.
“It’s a little too early to put anything on him”, Schwartz said. “He’s been impressive so far, but we haven’t really even started yet, to tell you the truth. He’s got a lot to learn and his head is probably swimming a little bit. But what he has shown, he’s a very good athlete. He can play the ball and he’s comfortable being on an island. If you were check marking things for corners, those would be three near or at the top.”