The Eagles pushed through even more adversity in Sunday’s win over the Colts. A depleted offense that ultimately led to some key turnovers pushed the defenses back to the wall, but once again, it was Jim Schwartz and his angry arsenal that came out swinging and ensured momentum stayed with the Eagles. One of the more underrated narratives coming out of that game, was the play of one cornerback in particular.
Jalen Mills has come under some heavy fire from fans and media alike during the opening two weeks of the season. After a struggle in week one, the former LSU standout allowed 11 completions on 12 targets for 156 yards and a deep bomb to DeSean Jackson. It’s safe to say that the third-year player hasn’t had the smoothest start to the 2018 season, but he’d heard enough coming into this weekend’s clash with the Colts.
Although he gave up 51 yards on a pair of pas interference calls, one couldn’t help but be impressed with a seemingly rejuvenated Mills. Playing closer to the line of scrimmage and showing that same aggression that saw Eagles fans across the country begin to idolize him. In the opening few weeks, Mills was picked on time and time again on routes that were designed to exploit his weaknesses or pick apart a secondary that insisted on giving a 10-yard cushion. This time around, Mills delivered bigger hits, was more confident in his decisions and wore his heart on his sleeve…and it showed in a big way.
“Jalen has actually been playing extremely well.” Pederson explained to reporters on Monday. “The flags yesterday, obviously he’s got to get his off-hand — he’s got a right or left hand that is going for the ball. The off-hand is in a position where he’s hooking.
He’s just got to be cognizant of that and aware of that and try and get it off. But he’s always in position. Seems like he’s right there to make the play. He’s physical, he’s tough, he can come up and make tackles. He’s been solid quite honestly at the corner position.
Gives you stability on both sides with he and [CB Ronald] Darby. So, again, a young player that’s going to continue with more snaps just getting better and better and he’s going to understand the game a little bit more, and his technique.
Really provide a spark defensively from time to time with pass break ups.”
The finger-wag swag and trademark celebrations returned emphatically against the Colts, with Mills helping hold T.Y Hilton out of the end zone and limiting his receiving yardage. Hilton caught 5 of 10 targets, with Mills breaking up 2 passes and being making a notable effort to disrupt the timing of his routes and be a more physical presence.
Mills wasn’t perfect, but he was never asked to be. To go from being picked on every single game in 2016, to see those same tendencies re-emerge this year, it can’t be easy. After a really difficult opening two games, Mills moved closer to the line of scrimmage and got up in the face of Hilton all game long and as a result, played a monumental role in marginalizing the Colts only real receiving target.
Sure, Hilton shrugged off Mills at the line of scrimmage on several occasions and there were others (like the PI) where a big play seemed imminent. But that’s the reason why Mills doesn’t play close to the line of scrimmage. If he gets beaten early, he doesn’t have the skillset to make up that ground and he isn’t the most physically dominant corner in the league, either. The fact that he recognized there was a clear issue however and worked to overcome his own personal weaknesses to stop that from happening again is beyond admirable.
Not only that, but his tackling prowess helped the Eagles stop some big-potential plays dead in their tracks and the raw emotions Mills showed really emphasized that.
There’s a long way to go until Mills reaches his full potential, but to rebound from an awful week 2 performance in the way he did can only be seen as a positive.
The Green Goblin is finally beginning to feel himself again.
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