Eagles

Jalen Mills high on confidence after pick-6

Jalen Mills high on confidence after pick-6

Jalen Mills was about to step out of bounds when somewhere in the back of his mind he heard … voices.
 
"Malcolm (Jenkins), coach (Jim) Schwartz and coach (Cory) Undlin, they’ve been grilling me all week, talking about how I had no return skills," Mills said with a laugh. "So that kind of went through my mind."
 
Mills did pick up his first two career interceptions earlier this year and had a 15-yard return against the Redskins and a one-yarder against the Giants.
 
At LSU, Mills had six interceptions and averaged only two yards per return.
 
And his teammates and coaches have been good-naturedly mocking him about it. As teammates and coaches will do.
 
"So that kind of went through my mind," Mills said. "So I cut it back, and I had to get in the end zone or I wouldn’t stop hearing the end of it. I had to shut them up."
 
Instead of stepping out of bounds, Mills cut inside and spun and twisted his way into the end zone Sunday for a 37-yard interception return touchdown at a time when the Eagles really needed a big play in their 33-10 win over the 49ers (see breakdown).
 
They led the winless 49ers 10-3 but were sputtering in the final minutes of the first half. Until Mills showed off his dazzling return skills.
 
"That was a good one," Jenkins said. "He shut me up on that play.
 
"We've been doing a decent job of getting turnovers, but scoring on those opportunities is something we wanted to take the next step to, and Jalen's been playing big for us all year, and that was probably the biggest play of all."
 
Working on a 3rd-and-7 on the 49ers' 28-yard line with a minute and a half left before halftime, 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard dropped back, felt pressure from Chris Long and tried to lob the ball to Pierre Garcon near the right sideline.
 
But Mills picked it off in front of Garcon at the 37-yard-line, then started speeding down the sideline (see Roob's observations).
 
Just as it looked like he was about to go out of bounds at the 12, he cut inside, swung back to the 15-yard line, darted past Fletcher Cox, who had just leveled Joe Staley and knocked him out of the game, then cut back inside at the 4-yard line and with blocks from Dexter McDougle and Jaylen Watkins, he galloped past three 49ers and into the end zone.
 
It was the Eagles' first pick-six this year and longest by an Eagles cornerback since Brandon Boykin's 54-yarder off Jay Cutler in 2013.
 
"As soon as I got a pick, Malcolm grabbed me, so I knew I was over him," Mills said. "Then I ran right to Schwartz, and he gave me a big hug, and then Cory gave me a big hug."
 
Mills' interception was the product of a week of preparation but also some game-day preparation.
 
“I was talking to some of the other DBs, like Malcolm and Pat (Robinson) and Rodney (McLeod), when we were out there in pregame just warming up and watching the quarterback, seeing the rain and the wind," Mills said.
 
"He was kind of letting the ball float a little bit and you see a lot of guys slipping out there, so knowing the ball was floating a little bit, just kind of trusting my break and taking an extra step just so I could get a clean break on it, and he threw the ball, it was floating a little bit and I got underneath it."
 
Mills has three interceptions this year and all three have come on third down. He's the only NFL player with three third-down interceptions this year.
 
Overall, he ranks third in the NFL in INTs, behind only Buffalo's Micah Hyde (five) and Tennessee's Kevin Byard (four).
 
Sunday's INT was his first ever at home.
 
“Finally got it," he said. "Great feeling, man. I really can’t even explain it. Seeing the crowd going crazy, my teammates jumping on me, I really couldn’t celebrate because I was getting pulled down. I really can’t even explain that feeling."
 
Mills is only the fourth player the Eagles have drafted in the seventh round or later with three or more interceptions in a season in the last 25 years. The others are Mark McMillian in 1995 and Kurt Coleman and Jamar Chaney in 2011.
 
And he's got half a season to go.
 
"Somebody asked me before the season who was going to have a breakout season this year and I said Mills," McLeod said.
 
"Just his approach in the offseason, how he worked, the things that he fixed from last year, from film study to his technique, and you just see it all unfolding.
 
"He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and once you have that in this league as a cornerback, the sky’s the limit, and you just see his confidence growing every single week, and as a cornerback that’s something you want to have, and he’s got it right now."

Eagles Stay or Go Part 2 — De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks

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Eagles Stay or Go Part 2 — De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks

In the second part of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. We go alphabetically -- Part 2 is De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks. 

De'Vante Bausby
Roob: The Eagles liked Bausby to keep the 25-year-old cornerback on the practice squad all year. What does that mean for the former undrafted free agent from Pitt (Pittsburg State in Kansas)? Probably nothing. The Eagles are loaded with young corners. Between Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones, they have four corners 24 or younger to build around. Bausby has logged some regular-season playing time with the Bears, but if he hopes to ever really compete for a roster spot on a team's 53-man roster, he's in the wrong place, because it won't happen here.

Verdict: GOES 

Dave: The Eagles added the young cornerback to their practice squad the week before the Chiefs game in Week 2. At the time, it looked like they simply added him because Bausby had previously been with the Chiefs. He heard plenty of that early on during his time with the team, but then he lasted the rest of the season on the practice squad and was re-signed after the year ended. He was good enough to stick around, but the Eagles have plenty of depth at corner to keep him off the roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Will Beatty
Roob: Beatty joined the Eagles halfway through the season as an emergency backup offensive tackle, but with Doug Pederson making it clear that he expects Jason Peters back at left tackle next year, that means Halapoulivaati Vaitai would be the leading backup tackle. I would expect the Eagles would draft a tackle at some point, and that guy could be the fourth tackle. Beatty has had a nice career and now has two Super Bowl rings, but it's hard to imagine that he has any kind of future with the Eagles.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: There's a reason Beatty was on the street until the Eagles called in November. The Birds probably need to upgrade at their backup tackle spots and Beatty is past his prime and shouldn't be the answer. He helped the scout team down the stretch and worked hard to help the Eagles get a Super Bowl ring, but it's time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

LeGarrette Blount
Roob: This is a tough one because Blount meant so much to this team, both with his unflinchingly unselfish attitude in the locker room and his big-time production on the field. How do you cut ties with a guy who was 14-for-90 rushing with a touchdown in a Super Bowl? But that's the reality the Eagles are facing. Blount is 31 and a free agent. Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement are the future at running back. And as mighty as Blount was in the Super Bowl, he did average 3.5 yards per carry or worse in eight of the last 13 games. Blount is a fun guy to be around and a tremendous natural leader. He played his heart out for this team. It'll be tough to see him go, but I think we'll have to.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Blount is a 31-year-old unrestricted free agent running back and it wouldn't be crazy to bring him back. After all, Blount shouldn't be very expensive and he was able to combine with Clement and Ajayi to form a pretty dynamic running back group. But Ajayi is going to get an offseason with the Eagles and he's going to take over more of the offense. The Eagles will have a decision to make with both Blount and Sproles hitting free agency. This is a pretty tough one, actually. 

Verdict: GOES 

Nigel Bradham
Roob: The Eagles have several valuable free agents you'd like to have back, but nobody is as important as Bradham, who had a very good year in his second season with the Eagles. The Eagles have depth at running back, tight end, and cornerback, where their most prominent free agents play, but they have very little at linebacker. Especially with Jordan Hicks missing half of two of his three NFL seasons, the Eagles must find a way to sign Bradham.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Bradham is an unrestricted free agent and should be the Eagles' top priority this offseason. It flew a little under the radar, but Bradham's 2017 was a huge reason for the Eagles' successful run to the Super Bowl. After Hicks went down, the Eagles relied on Bradham to make the defensive calls like a MIKE. He and Mychal Kendricks ended up being huge keys to the season. He's still just 28 and it'll be interesting to see how much he'll demand. Either way, the Eagles have to try to bring him back, especially as Hicks recovers from his Achilles tear. And you better believe Jim Schwartz will make his case for keeping a guy who has played for him more than anyone on the team. 

Verdict: STAYS

Bryan Braman
Roob: The Eagles brought Braman in late in the season after injuries took such a toll on special teams, and the former high school javelin star got himself a Super Bowl ring for his six games of work. But there's a reason Braman wasn't on a roster the first few months of the season. He's 30 years old now, turns 31 in May, and special teams is a young man's game. And Braman really doesn't have a position, although he's listed on the roster as a linebacker. It's tough for teams to really invest in a 31-year-old special teams specialist.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: After they brought him back in December, Braman did provide a certain spark to the Eagles' special teams group. But he's 30 now and doesn't give anything on defense. He carved out a nice career in the NFL as a special teams ace, but it seems like his time might be over, especially now that the Eagles have other key special teamers like Kamu Grugier-Hill. 

Verdict: GOES

Brandon Brooks
Roob: Like so many guys on the Eagles, Brooks left a challenge-filled 2016 season in his wake and enjoyed tremendous success in 2017. He played all 16 games, he successfully dealt -- in a very public and constructive way -- with the anxiety that had been plagued him on and off the field, he made his first Pro Bowl and was an absolute wrecking machine at right guard, especially in the postseason. Brooks is signed for three more years. He's not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This season, Brooks finally fulfilled his potential and became one of the most dominant offensive guards in the league. More importantly, he bravely put his issues with anxiety in the rearview. Brooks started every game for the Eagles this season and was their most consistent offensive lineman. He also made his first Pro Bowl team in 2017 and it shouldn't be his last. He's under contract for three more seasons. 

Verdict: STAYS

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons.