It was must-win time for the Eagles against the New York Giants, and they were counting on defensive backs with only slightly more NFL experience than the 69,696 fans sitting in the Lincoln Financial stands on Sunday.
There was De’Vante Bausby, who played his college ball at Division II Pittsburg State and had played 24 defensive snaps prior to lining up against Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard.
There was Chandon Sullivan, who played at Georgia State, with 45 snaps under his belt trying to defend two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning. Sullivan, 22, was just 8 year-old when Manning was drafted by the Giants in 2004.
There was Cre’Von LeBlanc, who played at Florida Atlantic and made it into three games earlier this year with the Detroit Lions then released and signed by the Eagles on Nov. 5, who waived Dexter McDougle to make room for him. It was also the same day the Eagles signed Bausby to their practice squad.
Throw in Tre Sullivan, who played at Division II Shepherd College and had all of 36 NFL snaps worth of experience, and, well, the task was daunting.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins knew what the team was up against without front-liners Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, and Ronald Darby available. Rasul Douglas was questionable, too (he ended up playing two snaps).
“If you’re talking about playing with these types of guys, these are who we’re going to have to win with,” said Jenkins during the week.
It was a rough start, with the Giants racing to a 19-3 lead, but the defense settled down. The pass rush ramped up and that certainly helped the young secondary, and the offense began to click, and the Eagles won 25-22.
“The opposing team knows we’re young and some guys are not as experienced, that we have rookies out there, me being new on the defense, but with that being said we knew what they were going to do against us, so we had to lean on each other, communicate and go out there and mean business,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc was a key figure on New York’s drive that led to a game-tying field goal with just under six minutes left in the game.
On third-and-eight, matched up against Beckham, he slipped and Beckham caught a pass that covered 19 yards for a first down. Later in the drive, on a third-and-four, he lined up against Beckham again. This time, he didn’t slip and, while he may have got away with a hold before the throw, forced Manning to try to fit the ball into a tight window, something the QB couldn’t do.
So it was a two-part question I asked him afterward.
First, about the slip and what he thought about it and what he was trying to do.
“Oh shit,” he said, then laughed. “On a serious note, I was just trying to stay high and on top. We know what Odell can do. He can take a top off of the defense.”
On the pass defense in the end zone to force a field goal: ““Everybody in the stadium knew where the ball was going, that was to Odell, one-on-one backside,” said LeBlanc, who started the season with the Lions, playing three games before being released. “He just came up vertically into me, created contact, tried to push me outside leverage and I squeezed it from outside in and Eli tried to throw it high.”
LeBlanc played 45 snaps (73 percent), Chandon Sullivan played 42 snaps (68 percent) before departing with an injury, and Tre Sullivan had 32 snaps (52 percent). The snaps for both Sullivans were close to equaling the number of snaps they had played in their entire careers.
Bausby played the most among the fill-ins, getting 61 snaps (98 percent). Remember, he had only played 24 in his entire life before Sunday. He made six tackles, which was tied for second most on the team behind the seven recorded by linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill.
“My confidence is always up,” said Bausby. “You got to stand up. When your number is called you have to stand up. The coaching staff throughout the whole week was coaching us as if it was Jalen Mills or Ronald Darby playing. They didn’t change anything. They believe and that’s definitely been beneficial for us. You have to go out there and do what you have to do.”
It wasn't a masterpiece by any means, but it was a job well done all things considered.