Is there something that the media and fans are missing when it comes to the Eagles cornerback situation? Currently, the Birds have six cornerbacks on their roster that are viewed as capable starters. Two of the six are recovering from significant injuries while the other four are possibly on pace for make or break seasons.
Of the two rehabbing from injuries is the former 7th round pick, Jalen Mills. Mills was a standout safety at LSU before being drafted by the Eagles with the 233rd overall pick. Mills is also entering his 4th season with the team and will be a free agent by the end of the year unless he reaches an agreement with the Eagles before then.
The ‘Green Goblin’ arrived on the scene in 2016 and would start in 2 of 16 games as a rookie, but still recorded 51 solo tackles, 61 combined and 7 pass deflections.
Now if you have paid attention for the last several seasons, the Eagles secondary has been under constant scrutiny for the number of yards they give up on a weekly basis. By no means has this secondary been considered elite, I mean they did give up a record 505 yards to Tom Brady in Super Bowl 52, let’s not forget the blown coverage in the final minutes of the Titans game, where Malcolm Jenkins and Mills both stood pat together while Corey Davis caught the winning touchdown.
I get it, I understand your frustration. All fans want to see their secondary catching interceptions and deflecting passes left and right but that’s not how this secondary is built, yet. This offseason, the Eagles were expected to draft a safety to be the heir apparent to Jenkins. That obviously didn’t happen as the organization almost went full blown offense with the exception of Shareef Miller.
Let’s play a game of “What if?” for a moment. If you have followed the team’s coaching staff, one thing you may have learned by now is that Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz have a master degree in poker faces. They always give the tiniest of information when it comes to their schemes, players, and plans.
Now we all know that Avonte Maddox has through the roof potential at either Safety or Corner. I truly believe that this year will decide his future at either position but what about 4-year for Jalen Mills? Would the team really let him walk? I don’t believe so. Here comes my big gesture, a gesture so big that it’s going to sound like you’ve heard it many times before. Are you ready? no? ok, how about now? ok good. What if the plan is to move Jalen Mills to free safety? Interesting, I’m sure I’m the first to think about this move. (Insert sarcasm here)
Seriously though, if there’s one thing that I’ve admired about Jalen Mills is his tackling ability. Mills, Maddox, and Douglas are the three corners you can rely on when it comes to tackling.
Let’s dive a little deeper now, this offseason the Eagles destructed Rodney Mcleod’s contract which will lead to him becoming a free agent after this season. We should now factor in the fact that outside of Mcleod and Jenkins, the Eagles secondary is fairly young. Sure McLeod is only 28, but Jones, Maddox, and Douglas are 23-years old, Cre’von Leblanc is 24-years old and Jalen Mills is 25-years old.
I’m choosing not to include the backup safeties right now for a reason. I fully believe that Roseman is keeping this young core together for a purpose and this season will define that purpose. The Green Goblin, Jalen Mills is in an unfavorable position but that all depends on the angle you’re looking from. If you truly believe that he is only a corner then, yes, I get your point. BUT if you truly know how much the Eagles coaching staff loves their hybrids then maybe there is a counter.
When Mills is healthy and on his game, he’s a necessary asset to the team. In 2016, Mills was one of the most targeted cornerbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, He allowed 58 of 91 passes thrown his way to be caught while giving up 848 receiving yards in his rookie year. Ouch.
In his second season, Mills improved almost drastically. According to Pro Football Focus, He went from allowing 2.07 yards per coverage snap to 1.07 yards. He even improved on his deep ball coverage, he went from allowing 44.8 percent of balls thrown over 20 yards or more to be caught and brought it down to 18.2 percent. That’s a heck of an improvement. Which lead to him receiving an overall grade of 77.1 from PFF. As for the year prior? He finished at 31.8 Wow, what a difference.
The case of keeping Jalen Mills and possibly moving him to safety is this: He has one of the great defensive minds by this side in Jim Schwartz, He also has a future hall of famer by his side in Malcolm Jenkins. We know that at his best, Mills can be a strength to this defense instead of a liability. He proved that during the illustrious Super Bowl season. I truly believe that having a secondary with this much potential and the hybrid ability, the Eagles may be set for the next three to five years depending on how their contracts start to look. Plus, I can’t see Mills with any other colored hair, can you?