First things first, many of my favorite memories from 2018 came from Cre’Von LeBlanc during the second half of last season. There were many highlights in 2018, but my personal favorite was Cre’Von LeBlanc’s interception against Drew Brees in the first play of the game during the playoffs. What do we expect from Cre’Von LeBlanc this season? Let’s break it down.
Now that TJ McConnell is gone, is there anyone more “Philadelphia” than Cre’Von LeBlanc? LeBlanc was undrafted. He was released by the New England Patriots as part of their final roster cuts in 2016. He was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Bears where he played 10 games in two years and then waived in September 2018. He earned a spot on the Detroit Lions’ active roster but was waived in November 2018. Two days later on November 5th, Cre’Von signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and I truly hope he found his home here in Philadelphia.
The Eagles’ secondary was in shambles during the first half of the season. The Eagles lost Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills to injury in November and December respectfully. It was a learning year for Sidney Jones on the field in 2018. It only took Cre’Von LeBlanc eight games starting in the nickel spot with the Birds to make him one of the best stories of 2018 and a household name in Philadelphia. LeBlanc was a major reason why the Eagles went 5-1 to finish the regular season and made the playoffs.
The numbers don’t lie
In 8 games, LeBlanc finished with 24 combined tackles, a pass deflection, and played 50% of the snaps during the regular season. Cre’Von saved his best work for the playoffs against the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints. In those two games, LeBlanc stepped up and finished with 7 combined tackles, 3 pass deflections, and an interception.
Per Pro Football Focus, Cre’Von was the highest graded cornerback in the NFL this postseason. He allowed 8 receptions on 13 targets for 65 yards. Drew Brees and Mitch Trubisky had a 67.8 passer rating when targeting LeBlanc. Incredible. At the end of the season last year, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz summarized it best: “I don’t know where we’d be without Cre’Von.” Well said, Jim.
LeBlanc’s Role for 2019
Is the slot cornerback position in the NFL the equivalent of a good 3&D wing in the NBA? It’s an incredibly important position in a pass happy league where offense is king. Quarterbacks continue to shatter records, yards per pass attempt continue to sky rocket, and pass interference penalties are the most heated conversation in the NFL. Whether you like it or not, throwing the deep ball in the hopes for a pass interference penalty is going nowhere. It’s a play where the reward far outweighs the risk, and it’s here to stay. Like a good 3&D wing, the slot cornerback is not a sexy position, but it is vital to a great defense.
Looking back to 2017…
Let’s take a step back and look at the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017. Patrick Robinson was an unsung hero that year as a slot cornerback. He finished with 4 interceptions and had the play that turned the tide against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. The slot cornerback may be the most underrated position on defense.
Cre’Von LeBlanc is fighting for slot cornerback on the Eagles in 2019. At the moment, I have LeBlanc fourth on the depth chart behind Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, and Avonte Maddox. Sorry, Sidney Jones, but you still have a lot to prove on the field. LeBlanc is a good tackler. He’s fast. He’s confident. But is he a future slot cornerback for the Eagles or is he just a flash in the pan?
The State of the Secondary
Ronald Darby tore his ACL during the Dallas game in November. That gives him 10 months to prepare for week one, and it is still up in the air if Darby will be a full participant during Training Camp. We all know the story about Avonte Maddox. He played outside corner, slot corner, and safety last season. Maddox will be on the field, it’s just a matter of how much and what position.
Safety Rodney McLeod had a serious knee injury in September but believes he will be ready for the start of the season. With unknowns in Darby and McLeod as participants during Training Camp, there is definitely a path for Cre’Von LeBlanc to turn some heads next week. Despite the fact that he was a defensive MVP for the Eagles last season, LeBlanc is certainly on the bubble for making the Philadelphia Eagles’ final 53-man roster.
2019 Season Expectations & Predictions
Just like the rest of his NFL career, Cre’Von LeBlanc is fighting for his job this summer. To be clear, this has nothing to do with his performance on the field. It’s simply a numbers game right now. LeBlanc must have a stellar Training Camp and Preseason over the course of the next month and a half.
My heart tells me that LeBlanc will make the final 53-man roster. My gut tells me he doesn’t. Suddenly, the Eagles secondary has more depth than it’s had in years, and there is much in the air at that position. I expect the cornerback position to be one of the most watched training camp battles this summer. The good news? Cre’Von LeBlanc clearly has Jim Schwartz in his corner rooting for him. Will that be enough?