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Will Shaq Leonard Fix the Philadelphia Eagles Defense?

Shaq Leonard: The Eagles triumphed in signing Shaq Leonard this week, over the Dallas Cowboys. Will he revitalize the suspect Eagles defense?

The current state of the Philadelphia Eagles defense is questionable, to say the least. After a crushing 42-19 loss against the San Fransisco 49ers, pundits and analysts have raised a bunch more questions this week about the Eagles. It’s important to note that the Eagles are still 10-2 and have gone against three top teams in the last three weeks. Everyone knew going in that it would be a hard ask for the Eagles to run the table during this stretch. However, it’s hard to take any positives away from that performance, especially defensively. The Eagles defense started strong the first two drives but got obliterated for the rest of the game by the 49ers offense. Hence, the Eagles went out and signed a former Indianapolis Colts All-Pro Linebacker, Shaq Leonard. Will he have enough of an impact to steady the Eagles defense?

Will Shaq Leonard Fix the Philadelphia Eagles Defense?

The Player: Shaq Leonard’s Performances

The Eagles signed Shaq Leonard to a one-year deal this week reuniting him with Head Coach Nick Sirianni. It was a bit of a surprise move when the Indianapolis Colts decided to release someone many considered one of their team leaders. However, Leonard has had an extensive injury history and has not played to his earlier heights this season in the opinion of some. The reality is that Leonard is most likely past his physical prime due to the wear and tear and is just a slower player than he was a few years ago.

His playtime with the Colts decreased throughout the season up until his release and it frankly made sense for the Colts. Leonard not only lost a step but has also never been regarded as a cover linebacker, which has only gotten worse this season. He’s a player at this point of his career who is going to rely on his experience and knowledge of the game to read plays and fight around the trenches to make plays in the running game.

The Fit: Shaq Leonard’s Role in the Defense

With all that being said, Leonard is an absolute upgrade right now for this decimated Eagles linebacker room. Despite what Nick Sirianni said about him being a piece for the team’s depth, Leonard should be a starter right away. Without Nakobe Dean or Zach Cunningham, the linebackers just were not good enough against the 49ers. It’s one thing to struggle against the passing offense of Kyle Shanahan, but even in the run game, the loss of Dean and Cunningham was apparent. It was too often that the linebackers couldn’t fill the gaps, and even when they did, they couldn’t bring down McCaffrey.

The Eagles defensive line, as good as they are, won’t be able to stop everyone’s run game alone. They will need the linebackers to make plays and take advantage of the lack of push generated by even good offensive lines like the 49ers. Leonard should be able to come in right away and be a massive upgrade in cleaning those kinds of plays up.

What it Will All Mean

All in all, this signing won’t solely fix the Eagles problems defensively. Defensive Coordinator, Sean Desai, needs to settle on an identity for this team and that should be the biggest priority. Whether it’s as a cover two team, a man-to-man team, or a cover three-zone team, switching up the game plan week to week is too much of a feast-or-famine affair, for such a talented team. With the addition of Leonard, the Eagles linebackers won’t be one of the best units in the league, but all they need to be solid.

Additionally, Shaq Leonard has the chance to provide valuable leadership to the plethora of young players in the middle of the Eagles defense. It’s a good signing for the Eagles and it puts them in a better direction with him than without him. We’ll see exactly where the Eagles defense stands this Sunday night against the team that Shaq Leonard spurned, the Dallas Cowboys.

Main Photo: Jenna Watson/IndyStar-USA TODAY NETWORK


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