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Why Sirianni thinks Shaq Leonard can help Eagles down the stretch

The Eagles were able to land Shaq Leonard and Nick Sirianni thinks the veteran linebacker has something left.

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Nick Sirianni was FaceTiming with Shaq Leonard last week and then he passed the phone to Marcus Brady and then to Jason Michael and then to Kevin Patullo.

All of those Eagles coaches were in Indianapolis during Leonard’s prime in the NFL.

And they’ll be there to greet Leonard when he shows up this week after the Eagles agreed to terms with the three-time All-Pro linebacker on Monday.

“We all have that relationship with him as a player,” Sirianni said on Monday afternoon. “Again, we know we're getting the right person, right leader, with all that. 

“And we still have confidence from the tape that he still can play. And he's been a high-level player in this league for a very long time ... Still has a knack to take the ball away. Still has that knack to run and hit the ball carrier. Still has the length that he had to make throws hard in the passing lane.”

We’ll find out pretty soon.

While it would be foolish to expect Leonard to suddenly regain his All-Pro form, there’s some hope that he’ll be able to help the Eagles at the weakest spot on their roster. With Nakobe Dean on IR and with Zach Cunningham out with a hamstring injury, the Eagles started Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss against the 49ers and it didn’t go well in the 42-19 loss.

The 49ers attacked the Eagles’ linebackers a ton in that NFC heavyweight battle.

Sirianni made a point on Monday to praise the play of Elliss from Sunday’s game and said the signing of Leonard doesn’t mean the Eagles lack faith in the linebackers already on the roster.

“We just feel like he adds that depth to our team with some of the injuries that we've had there,” Sirianni said.

But it has been pretty clear that the Eagles could use some help at the position and it had never been clearer than it was watching the loss to the 49ers on Sunday.

Leonard, 28, was last an All-Pro in 2021. In 2022, he played just three games and needed two back surgeries. This season, Leonard played the first nine games for the Colts but failed to make a big impact and eventually lost his role and was released.

Sirianni claims that from the Eagles’ film study, the Eagles still think Leonard can play. Not only that, but Sirianni has relationships from his time in Indy and obviously has a relationship with Colts head coach Shane Steichen, who was the Eagles’ OC the last two seasons. Plenty of people to ask about Leonard.

“So excited about the player we're getting,” Sirianni said. “Again, I don't want to make any mistake about it, I like our linebackers. I know yesterday was a tough day for us, but still have a lot of the faith in the linebackers and the people we have in the building. Just going to be a good addition with Shaq in this building.”

The next big question is about Leonard’s role and his availability for the Eagles’ next game. The timing of Leonard’s signing is perfect because the Eagles will travel to face the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. And Leonard’s decision this weekend came down to those two teams.

Earlier this season, the Eagles have added veteran players and haven’t hesitated to throw them into the fire.

Bradley Roby signed on Oct. 4 and played on Oct. 8.

Julio Jones signed on Oct. 17 and played on Oct. 22.

Kevin Byard joined the team via trade on Oct. 23 and played on Oct. 29.

Based on all that, there seems to be an overwhelming possibility that Leonard will be in uniform this Sunday against the Cowboys. But Sirianni clearly didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

“Every position is a little different, every scenario, every game plan is a little different. We'll see,” he said. “I don't want to put expectations on him without letting him be here in the building for a little bit. I’ll have a better feel for that. 

I know how smart Shaq is and how much he works at it. I know our coaches will work hard at it as well to get him up to speed. Like I said, some game plans have less in them, and some game plans have more in them. The style of the team you're playing. There are so many different things that go into it. We'll have a better feel as the week goes, but we're going to try to get him up to speed as quick as possible.”

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