Leodis McKelvin Fits What Eagles Do Defensively
It’s what cornerback Leodis McKelvin provides and what the Philadelphia Eagles need after lackuster play at the position the past few years.
The Eagles spent big money to bring in free agent bust Byron Maxwell last offseason - but shipped him off to Miami his offseason. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were added before the 2013 season - the duo was mediocre at best and were both gone after two seasons in the Eagles secondary.
Now the Eagles are hoping this year's free agent corner class, featuring McKelvin and Ron Brooks is finally the right fit.
McKelvin has spent eight years in the league, all in Buffalo, posting career bests under Jim Schwartz in 2014. So when Schwartz made the move back into the league as Eagles defensive coordinator, McKelvin came followed him.
"The year I had him he was playing at a really high level before he got hurt," Schwartz said back in May during OTA's.
"He's not the tallest guy around, but he can jump, he can play the ball in the air. Mentally and physically tough. I don't know if you see that just seeing his body shape. But he'll go throw his body around and hit. He was a first round draft pick. He's played at a high level in this league.
McKelvin, listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, has been the Eagles best corner at camp and its not even close. Schwartz has gone out of his way to show praise for McKelvin, while admitting there is competition for the job across from him.
"Leodis has probably been the guy that's really stood out the most to me," Schwartz admitted back in June during OTA's.
"He's a guy that it seems like he's making plays quite a bit, knocking PBUs [pass break ups] and getting his hands on balls and doing the things that you expect from a veteran corner. He’s a smart guy, very athletic and [we’re] excited for the upcoming season with him."
McKelvin has never been able to stay on the field to be a year-in-and-year-out starter in this league, starting just 60 of 98 career games - but that is about to change in Philly.
"I thought he really came on to his own the year before I got to Buffalo, 2012," Schwartz explained. "He had a really good year, and the year I was there he was playing at a Pro Bowl level I thought until he broke his leg, ankle, whatever it was in the Miami game."
"What happened before that, I really can't speak to. Last year was an injury thing. He started on the PUP, and then when they came out -- that was a team that was blessed with a lot of corners. Just a fact of where they've been the last couple years."
Over his career, McKelvin has played in 98 games, which makes him the most experienced cornerback on the roster. Of the 11 others, eight have two years of experience or less - Meaning the competition to start across from McKelvin appears to be wide-open right now.
However, that doesn't mean he doesn't have to keep working hard to keep his spot at the top of the depth chart.
“Even where it appears as though we're set, we're always looking for good players and we're always looking for guys that can execute the scheme; guys that can make a play within the scheme; guys that can be trustworthy. We try not to go in with any prejudice toward anybody, whether it's an undrafted free agent or a 10-year vet," Schwartz said about the competition at the cornerback position.
"It's going to be fun to watch the corners compete. We have some guys that can cover. We have some guys that have a great opportunity here. If they’ll get up and they’ll challenge receivers, like I said before, if you can cover -- you can't cover many people if you don't want to challenge guys."
"Just with the blend of veteran players: a guy like Nolan Carroll, who we talked about; [CB] Leodis McKelvin. Some young guys that have some opportunities: Jalen has done a nice job for a rookie so far and [CB] Ron Brooks is going to have an opportunity. Guys coming off injury like ‘Shep,’ [CB JaCorey Shepherd] who has been out here. I think it's going to be exciting to watch those guys. If they show the ability to cover and they show that they will challenge guys, then we'll find use for all of them.”
Mckelvin’s playoff resume is blank, he has never played in a playoff game, but if the Eagles are to make the playoffs, their defense will need to be better than it's been the past two seasons and is play will be a big part of that.