Fri, 18 Sep 2020

Eagles secondary in search of a little respect

Philadelphia Eagles
08 Aug 2020, 19:12 GMT+10

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

The world found out what it meant to Aretha Franklin when she released her iconic song back in 1967 and according to Rodney McLeod, the world is about to find out what it means to him in 2020.

McLeod felt like the Eagles' defense, specifically the secondary, lost some of its respect despite allowing 17 points or fewer in eight of their final 10 games, including the postseason, in 2019.

But McLeod believes that with the additions of Darius Slay, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Will Parks, and K'Von Wallace and a slew of experienced returning players, the secondary is poised to regain some of that respect this coming season.

"As a secondary, I felt that we were a little disrespected at times," McLeod said. "I think now is time to live up to that standard. A standard that's been set with people that played way before us. You know, the Brian Dawkins of the world, the Troy Vincents, Malcolm (Jenkins)."

"I think when you think of guys who have put on the jersey before us, we owe them that," he added. "We want to get back to this secondary taking over this defense and winning the game and putting the game on our back."

But as Dawkins once said, respect is not given, it is earned (doggone it), and the Eagles' secondary is ready to work for every bit of it. According to Mills, that process starts with the secondary, and the defense as a whole, figuring out its identity. When the secondary found its stride in the second half of the 2019 season, it happened because it became secure in its identity.

The 2020 version cannot be a carbon copy of the 2019 one, however. In Mills' mind, it has to be brand new.

"This year is going to be different," said Mills, who is transitioning from cornerback to safety. "We need to find our stride, find out our identity, who we are, and stick to it, whatever it may be."

The man that will be most responsible for shaping that identity will be new Defensive Backs Coach Marquand Manuel, who is looking to regain some respect himself after spending a year out of football.

"I think people respect him because one, he's played the game, because of his passion, and because of the way he coaches this group, and the expectations that he has for us," McLeod said of Manuel. "It's a very high standard. He's coached a lot of good secondaries and we want to be another group that's respected in this league and treated as such."

On paper, this looks to be another in a long line of feared secondaries Manuel has helmed. Time will tell if it is anything like the Legion of Boom Manuel once led, but the pieces are in place for it to be one of the best in the NFL in 2020.

Leading the way is Slay, who comes to Philadelphia after three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl with the Detroit Lions. Slay's forte is matching up against the opponent's No. 1 receiver, and that will more than likely continue with the Eagles. It is something McLeod is looking forward to seeing play out in front of him on gameday.

"It makes my job a lot easier as a safety, I can tell you that," McLeod said.

Nickell Robey-Coleman was another significant addition to the secondary, as he is known to be one of the best slot corners in the league. Slay and Robey-Coleman will join a cornerback group that features young, but experienced players in Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Cre' Von LeBlanc, and Craig James.

At safety, Parks and Wallace join a group that includes McLeod, Mills, Marcus Epps, and Rudy Ford. McLeod has been particularly impressed with Wallace, who has already shown leadership qualities during his brief time with the team.

"Right now, he's got to earn his stripes. He's got to earn that jersey each and every day and I think he's taking the right steps to do that," McLeod said of Wallace. "In the weight room, I can tell that he's already a leader amongst his class that he's come in with."

McLeod is even optimistic about undrafted free agents Grayland Arnold, Michael Jacquet, and Elijah Riley, making for some heated competition in Training Camp and beyond.

"It's a room full of depth and talented individuals, and hungry guys, too, willing to compete and that's what we have to do," McLeod said. "We have to create that culture and bring out the best in all of us in order to be the best."

What Eagles fans want, McLeod and the Eagles secondary believe they have it.

And if the secondary delivers on its lofty expectations, all its going to ask for, is for a little respect.

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