Next Man Back

Posted: September 28th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Next Man Back

One of the real strengths of the Doug Pederson era has been the Eagles truly believing in Next Man Up. All teams preach that. They have to. There aren’t good players sitting on the street, waiting to fill every hole that comes up due to in-season injuries. You must find and develop depth within your roster.

Pederson hasn’t just preached this, he’s practiced it. Lane Johnson gets suspended…rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai takes his place. Darren Sproles gets hurt…rookie Corey Clement takes his place. Ronald Darby gets hurt…journeyman Jaylen Watkins takes his place.

Not every move has worked great. When Nelson Agholor was benched in 2016, Paul Turner took his place. Turner is a great guy and fun preseason player, but he simply isn’t good enough for the NFL and that showed. Still, Pederson gave him his chance. You can’t just say Next Man Up. You must put actions behind those words so that coaches and players will truly buy in. If backups really believe they have a shot to play, they will prepare more seriously.

The philosophy is about to be tested again.


This time it will be Next Man Back. McLeod normally lines up 15 to 20 yards back from the line of scrimmage and he has one critical job…keep everything in front of him. In football speak, stay deeper than the deepest.

Corey Graham will likely slide into McLeod’s spot as a starter. Graham is a veteran so he can easily handle the basics. He’s not as fast or athletic as McLeod so he won’t be as effective on some plays. Graham has seen a lot more so that might help him to do some things that McLeod didn’t. Graham does have better hands and that could benefit the defense.

The Eagles love to use three safeties in their passing down packages. This is where there will be some questions. Does Graham move back to his old spot in those looks with Deiondre’ Hall taking over as the deep safety?

I know some fans have talked about moving a CB over. Jalen Mills isn’t moving. He’s playing well this year, aside from Tampa. The Eagles love him at CB so he’s not going anywhere. Avonte Maddox is a rookie so he’s not an ideal candidate. Rasul Douglas could make some sense. He has excellent length, which would help him cover ground, and Douglas has outstanding ball skills. Some think safety is where he’s meant to play.

Let’s go back to Hall for a second. He played CB in college and when he first got to the NFL. He is 6-2 and has extremely long arms. Hall has good ball skills. In other words, he’s similar to Douglas. The difference is that Hall hasn’t played much for the Eagles, but has been practicing at safety. And the Eagles didn’t trade for him for the hell of it. This is a player they had genuine interest in. I tend to think Hall is the guy they’ll use as the third safety. Give him his chance to show what he can do.

I’m sure there are a few people who would say “Trade for Earl Thomas!”, but that just isn’t likely to happen. He’s older and wants a big deal. The Eagles have cap issues already. Trying to add him would be great for the short term, but terrible long term.

The Eagles could sign a veteran safety to take McLeod’s roster spot. I’m not sure that Tre Sullivan is ready to play for a title contender right now. He still feels a year away. We’ll find out more about the McLeod situation at Doug Pederson’s press conference today.

Losing McLeod hurts. He’s not an elite player, but is a reliable veteran who does a good job of limiting big plays. McLeod is very effective when the Eagles bring him into the box, but they prefer to keep him deep. He’s got good range and cover skills.

We tend to only focus on safeties when they screw up and a big play is happening. There are plenty of plays in a game when a QB looks deep, sees McLeod and has to go elsewhere. With him out, it will be interesting to see if teams attack deep more often.

This injury will give Graham a chance to really shine in his final season. It will also give Hall a chance to show that he belongs and has a future in the NFL.


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