VanSumeren, Leonard Step Up as Eagles’ Linebacker Heroes

VanSumeren, Leonard Step Up as Eagles’ Linebacker Heroes

PHILADELPHIA – Ben VanSumeren brought the fun and ran like he was a kid again. Shaq Leonard provided the energy with a wave to the home crowd, encouraging them to make as much noise as their Christmas Day egg-soaked vocal chords would allow.

Not bad for a Plan C at linebacker. Even better than the untouchables, they were 1-for-2 in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 33-25 win over the New York Giants on Monday, with Leonard scoring seven and VanSumeren six. The Eagles have been tearing through linebackers at an alarming rate all season, so VanSumeren and Leonard had to hold down the fort, especially after Zach Cunningham (knee) and Nick Morrow (abs) were sidelined. Cunningham and Morrow could return Sunday when the Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.

Both players were limited on the team’s injury report Wednesday. If they can’t play, the Eagles should be good based on how VanSumeren and Leonard performed against the Giants. “I feel like they did a great job, especially Ben coming in for the first time in his career and seeing him have fun,” safety Reed Blankenship said. “I feel like this little kid came out and he was flying around, having fun, talking, partying with everybody.


You’ll love to see it.” VanSumeren’s 36 sacks (57 percent) were the first of his budding career on defense, and it was also his first start, something he didn’t know how to do until Christmas morning when Morrow was slated to sit. “I got to thinking about it and how does it really feel?” he said.

“Am I worried when it gets closer? I really never was. It felt like playing in the yard, but (playing) on ​​Christmas Day was great. Matt Patricia was pleased with what he saw of the undrafted rookie. “It’s exciting for him to have that feature in the game and he’s a very quick and explosive player,” the Eagles senior defensive assistant said. “Heand is young, so we’re trying to get him to slow down, see what you’re seeing and adjust his eyes and everything. From a linebacker standpoint, the big man has been very productive and helped our special teams as well.

“So the head was on the field from that perspective, but it looked like he was having fun out there and being explosive, what he does.” As for Leonard, he’s still trying to find his physical comfort level after back surgery 13 months ago that sidelined him from running until June, a month before the Colts open training camp. He played 54 snaps (87 percent).

The Colts signed him and cut him before the Eagles jumped and won the battle against the Dallas Cowboys for Leonard’s services when he signed on December 4th. “Of course they dumped me, talked to me and lied about my name,” he said.

“I’m just here to prove that I’ve still got something in the tank. That’s my goal to go out there and just prove to myself that I can still play and I can still play. Leonard benefits from the Eagles’ system, which allows him to play downfield in a one-gap scheme. “Just trust your gut and make the play,” Leonard said.

“That’s how I’ve been like my whole career, when I could just use my instincts, sneak out and run. Just play ball.” However, to do what he did in less than a month in a new defense is totally commendable. “That was great, wasn’t it?” said Patricia.

“Obviously, I was so excited for him to come play and another week to learn everything and man, I thought he was going to read very aggressive, fast numbers. andquot;Heand#039;s a super instinctive football player, and some of the plays where he saw and shot, I think, energized everyone from that perspective.

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