Rodney McLeod aims to reach to Brian Dawkins' standard

New Eagles safety Rodney McLeod on his playing style: "I’m able to just be fearless out there." AP Photo/Billy Hurst

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles have been looking for safety help since Brian Dawkins departed for Denver in 2009.

They got halfway to their goal by signing Malcolm Jenkins two years ago. They’re hoping to complete the task with Wednesday’s signing of free agent Rodney McLeod.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound McLeod isn’t the biggest safety around. But he plays with an attitude that he believes will remind Eagles fans of their long-lost Weapon X.

"Obviously, I watched Brian Dawkins and guys like that," McLeod said Thursday. "It’s something that I want to be a part of."

McLeod got a glimpse of the Philadelphia atmosphere when the St. Louis Rams played at Lincoln Financial Field in 2014. He also learned about Eagles fans from former Rams teammate Quentin Mikell. Mikell, who played alongside Dawkins in Philadelphia, is now working for the Eagles in a player outreach role.

"He just said 'you’re going to love it here,'" McLeod said. "They’re going to love you. The fans are loyal here. They come out each and every Sunday for their team. That’s all you can ask for.

"I played here a couple years back. I noticed the fans. I’ve seen the legacy that guys have left here. It’s truly a blessing to me to be a part of this."

McLeod is looking forward to working with Jenkins, who went to the Pro Bowl last season

"He’s a great safety in this league," McLeod said. "That’s one of the reasons I chose here, to play beside a guy of that caliber. I think we can be the best (duo) in the league, honestly. The ability that he has, with my range and ability to make plays -- I think that’s my strong suit."

McLeod said he prides himself on his "physicality." He delivers big hits despite being an undersized player.

"I’m able to just be fearless out there," McLeod said. "Even with my size -- a lot of people would say I’m not that big. Just go out there and be fearless and try to make plays on the ball. Get the ball back for our offense. That’s my focus."

McLeod came into the league as an undrafted rookie. He signed with the Rams, who were coached by Jeff Fisher. When Fisher was head coach of the Tennessee Titans, one of his assistants was Jim Schwartz. Schwartz went on to be head coach of the Detroit Lions and is now the Eagles’ defensive coordinator.

"He seems like a great man," McLeod said. "He comes from a great background."

Fisher began his NFL coaching career as an assistant on Buddy Ryan’s staff in Philadelphia. So McLeod is connected to Eagles tradition through Schwartz and Fisher. He has a feel for Eagles tradition as personified by Dawkins.

The Eagles are hoping McLeod is a safety capable of keeping that tradition alive.