PHILADELPHIA — The leadership qualities bubbling out from the outset, newly signed Eagles linebacker Shaq Leonard denied the obvious, which is to say the position has too often been a train wreck this season.
“I’m not going to say they need me,” Leonard said Wednesday at his first availability. “I feel like their defense was playing well. I feel like the linebackers were playing well. I have a lot of respect for their linebackers, so it wasn’t that. It was more so I wanted to go somewhere that would fit me and the coach knew as a person and as a player. That’s why I came here.”
There is no doubt that Leonard’s relationship as a member of the Colts with Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, an impressionable assistant, was a huge factor in the decision to join the Birds instead of the Cowboys, who also were finalists. That adds a layer of drama to their Sunday night game at AT&T Stadium.
“It is what it is,” Leonard said. “I just feel like playing against whoever. Not trying to make it too big or too small. Just try to take it one game at a time and each game the same exact approach, no matter who I’m facing.”
Leonard (6-2, 230) is grateful to get another chance after being dumped by the Colts, after they reduced his role to a two-down player.
He’s played in just a dozen games after multiple back surgeries in 2022.
“I couldn’t run for like five or six months so I had to get back to getting my feet back up under me, making the right steps, make sure I don’t false step,” Leonard said. “Stuff like that, so it was just more so getting back to muscle memory because I couldn’t football.”
Leonard said all the right things about his Indy exit, wishing the Colts “nothing but the best.
“Of course, it’s not just proving to Indy that I can still play,” Leonard said. “I want to prove to myself that I can still play. That’s why I continue to go as hard as I possibly can and put my best foot forward.”
Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, formerly of the Titans has a pretty good idea of what a healthy Leonard can do by virtue of their competition in the NFC South.
“Whenever I played him, he always let his presence be known,” Brown said. “He plays hard. You’ve always got to worry about him punching the ball out. That was always a talking point when we played the Colts and he was the leader. So just having him over here, you know, just watching him from afar you can tell that the leadership value that he had over there with the Colts is going to help us out a lot.”
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Center Jason Kelce and safety Reed Blankenship rank among the leaders at their positions in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl team.
Eagles players have the fifth-most votes behind the 49ers, Dolphins, Cowboys and Ravens.
Quarterback Dak Prescott, receiver CeeDee Lamb and guard Zack Martin are the leading vote-getters at those positions in the NFC. Cornerback DaRon Bland (four pick-sixes) and outside linebacker Micah Parsons also lead at their respective positions.
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Eagles wide receiver Julio Jones (groin) and cornerback Darius Slay (resting player, knee) sat out the walkthrough Wednesday.
Slay was a step slow all day in the loss to the 49ers.
Seeing limited action according to the Eagles were defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (groin), linebacker Zach Cunningham (hamstring) and tight end Jack Stoll (knee).
Tight end Dallas Godert (forearm) was a full go who said he was “very likely to play.”
Asked if it was likely he’d be back in action Sunday after sitting out a month, Goedert responded “I think the likelihood is very high.”
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Tough break for Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, who underwent surgery for acute appendicitis.
Though McCarthy hopes to coach Sunday, Cowboys coordinators Dan Quinn, Brian Schottenheimer and John Fassel all are competent enough to take over. Quinn guided the Falcons to Super Bowl LI.
Schottenheimer already is heavily involved in the play calls.
Source: Berkshire mont