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Rodney McLeod on Jason Peters, Malcolm Jenkins Departures: ‘Heartbreaking’

When it comes to leadership, Rodney McLeod certainly learned from the best.

McLeod played alongside Malcolm Jenkins for most of the last four years, and now that Jenkins is gone, certainly a good deal of the leadership in that Eagles' secondary and on the defense overall is going to have to come from McLeod.

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McLeod, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract to return to the Eagles in 2020, spoke about his leadership skills and moving forward without Jenkins in a conversation with NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

"I think my leadership qualities have always been there for this team," McLeod said. "Malcolm is a heck of a leader and I knew that from the first day that I entered in Philadelphia in 2016. How he quickly won over not just guys in the locker room, but myself included. He's a guy that you want to follow. Everything about him, from the work that he does on the field, to the level he plays the game, to how he competes, to how he conducts himself as a professional and a student of the game really attracted me to him. I admire everything that he brought to the table. And off the field, it speaks for itself."

How do you replace that?

McLeod's leadership style has maybe always been a little overshadowed by Jenkins, who was as vocal as anybody. But if you've been around McLeod, you've seen that his is also a voice the younger – and older – players listen to.

Check out this video that NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro shot in 2018 while McLeod was out with a knee injury:

"I've always been that type of guy," he said. "I speak up when needed. I think because I lead by example, when I do speak, people listen. It's coming from a different place, so I grab a lot of people's attention when I do decide to speak. … If you're actions can't show, then what do your words truly mean? I'm a guy that leads by action and let my words kind of follow suit. I'll continue to do that. I know that the defense is going to need someone to also be a little more vocal at times. That's what I'm going to have to do. Continue to play with energy, play with passion and, like I said, just let my heart pour out, man. I think if you do that, everything else will take care of itself and guys will rally behind you."

If McLeod remains an Eagle through the two years on his contract – and he turns 30 this summer – he would be tied for the 6th-most seasons played by an Eagles safety in franchise history, behind only Dawk (13 seasons), Randy Logan (11), Wes Hopkins (9) and Quintin Mikell and Andre Waters (8 each).

"Man, it means everything to be an Eagle again, to sign a two-year contract to be back in green, a place that I love dearly and a place that loves me back," he said. "I'm just excited to … push forward to bring this city another championship. I think that's the reason we play this game. That's something that will always be special in my heart, the fact that we were the first to do it but I think before I leave the game, I want to bring another one back to this city."

With the departures of Peters, Jenkins, Nelson Agholor and Darren Sproles, McLeod is now tied for sixth on the Eagles in terms of senority.

When you've played so long with guys like Peters and Jenkins, it's not easy to see them leave.

"It's heartbreaking because you build a relationship with a lot of men that come through the doors and come through the locker room. And you look at guys like Jason Peters and Malcolm Jenkins that you mentioned that are staples and faces of this organization that have been around for a long time, that people know and love dearly. … Their legacy will live on forever. At the end of the day, it's a part of the business. We all know that great teams and great players unfortunately aren't able to play together forever. Whoever that 53-man roster is, come September, that's who I'm going to ride out with and that's who I'm going to lead. That's my focus right now, being the best player, the best leader possible, that this organization and team needs. And bringing other guys along with me so that we can make this push to win games in September and push to win this division."

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