One of the most surprising statistics from Sunday’s win over the New York Giants was just how much Jalen Mills was targeted. Leading the team with 12 tackles, Mills was targeted 21 times…that’s more single-game targets than any cornerback in the last decade and more than any corner’s tally through the opening three games of the season. It’s easy to look at the stats and see that Mills gave up two scores, but there is a large myth surrounding the former LSU cornerback and his production.
Below is every target that wasn’t a touchdown from Sunday’s game, along with some analysis for each to try and gauge why Mills is being sought out by opposing quarterbacks so much.
Mills is originally sat deeper and was tasked with shadowing Odell Beckham Jr for the game. Odell made a nice cut inside and as Mills closed over the top he took a poor angle when making the tackle. Luckily, he wrapped up his former teammate and cut the play dead in its tracks.
Mills does a good job of reading the play here and takes an extra step when changing direction to come over the top. OBJ nearly sneaks back underneath as he attempts to push for the sideline, but Mills again shows his tackling prowess and brings the wideout down. If there’s one common trait throughout this article, it’s Mills and his confidence in tackling.
Odell Beckham Jr ran a simple curl route here, but Mills has seen all too many of these throughout his rookie season to not deal with it sufficiently. He disrupts the pass and completely engulfs the Giants receiver.
At this point, the confidence started to build. On another curl route, Mills showed his assertion by again keeping his eyes on the quarterback and jumping the route to stop it from developing.
This is something we don’t see often from Mills, a missed tackle. Closing down on a slanting OBJ, Mills dived for the receiver and simply made a mental error. Luckily there was help on the way, but it could have been costly.
By this point, Mills almost seems to know what to expect. He comes over the top after staring down Manning and meets the point of the reception head on and makes a hard hit.
Mills almost got caught off guard on this slant after OBJ sold the vertical look cleanly. Mills pushes back down on top of the receiver and makes a slightly sporadic tackle on the falling wideout.
This is a strange one. Mills is clearly playing a zonal look and immediately moves inside after Eli Manning faked the handoff. This opened a huge window for OBJ and one Mills couldn’t close up fast enough. It was picture perfect by the Giants.
Manning had a quick look on a slant here to OBJ but overthrew it. Mills closed it down after starting from an off position, but this was simply a bad throw.
The patience of Mills on this play is really impressive. Beckham ran a complex look with several breaks and the second year corner didn’t bite once, with a smooth backpedal and a nice tackle at the end, Mills was really impressive here.
Lining up in press coverage, Mills does a nice job of sitting back and keeping his body positioned to make a tackle in a zone look. He comes back into the slot and picks up the receiver, refusing to bite on the route by the outside wideout.
With the Giants drawing near to the endzone, they looked to chip their way inside the five. Manning was able to nearly do just that, but Mills was all over Beckham from the moment the route began. His footwork here is exceptional, coming over the top and batting the ball away for a vital incompletion.
The Giants rarely gave Mills a shot to prove his worth on an Island, but he was simply consistent enough to keep the Offense having to play a game of dink-and-dunk. Mills again reads the play well and keeps his eyes on the receiver when changing direction on a rare occasion he faced Brandon Marshall. Mills is unable to bring him down, but securely wraps the big receiver up to end the play.
Talking of a shot down the field, Mills finally saw his legs stretched on this play. He turns and runs nice and early after a swift backpedal. The transition was smooth but the deep speed simply isn’t there. The pass was overthrown, but Mills simply gave up too much inside space after opening his hips to force the wide open window for Manning.
One play later, Mills seemed as if he was caught off guard once again. Still getting his feet set, Manning snapped the ball and immediately trusted his star wideout who was burning Mills at an alarming rate. Luckily, Malcolm Jenkins came her the top with a swift PI call to take one step back, but save the touchdown pass.
It’s safe to say the previous play annoyed Mills. When targeted against OBJ again, he went flying into a challenge and knocked the wind out OBJ.
A few moments later, Mills aimed to do the same again, but it seemed as though frustration was setting in and perhaps a sense of attrition. Mills leapt around OBJ and brought him to the ground sporadically, but it wasn’t his cleanest tackle.
And finally, Mills shows his zone prowess by tracking the receiver out of harms way while keeping his eyes on Manning. This allows Mills to follow the ball and come straight back down to minimize the damage on a pass out of the flat.
You couldn’t really ask much more of a cornerback targeted 21 times. Mills had ups and downs, but a quieter game with such a ridiculous volume of passes should highlight just how much potential he has. Tackling for the most part was clinical and his instincts are improving on a weekly basis. There’s a long way to go, but for a cornerback to be singled out this much, Mills is coping with the pressure like a veteran.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports