NFC Defensive Player of the Week Jalen Mills not satisfied

USA Today Images

NFC Defensive Player of the Week Jalen Mills not satisfied

Jalen Mills isn’t merely holding his own in his second NFL season. Some would say the Eagles cornerback is in the midst of a breakout year, perhaps even worthy of Pro Bowl consideration.

It’s not farfetched. Mills already has 10 pass breakups and three interceptions at the midway point, and he gained some recognition nationally on Wednesday, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with a pick-six against the 49ers.

Plays like that and the resulting exposure are going to help put Mills on the map, especially given the Eagles’ 7-1 record — although the 23-year-old insists he couldn’t have done it himself.

Mills is crediting his Eagles teammates for his success.

“I’m blessed, but at the same time, I talked to Chris Long before this practice, I talked to [Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins],” Mills said after learning of the award.

“I told those guys that really goes with them — the D-line getting pressure, then having guys like Malcolm and [Rodney McLeod] help me with film study and understand different tendencies, understand how guys are going to attack our defense.

“I think this award is really for those guys because they help me a lot.”

The Eagles’ defense has been spectacular as a whole, but Mills has taken a big step forward as well.

A seventh-round draft choice, Mills wound up playing extensively as a rookie, the outcome of which was about what you would expect. He wasn’t bad considering the circumstances, just inconsistent.

Mills finished his first year with a 97.7 opponents’ passer rating in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus — tied for 53rd out of 79 qualifying cornerbacks. Fans were critical nonetheless, while analysts were skeptical as to his ceiling.

Eight weeks into the ’17 campaign, Mills is 30th with an 80.9 rating in coverage. The LSU product is proving his doubters wrong as the Eagles’ de facto No. 1 cornerback, and nobody could blame him for pointing it out.

Instead, Mills is continuing to go about his business the same as always, preparing for the Eagles’ next opponent.

“Regardless of whatever I did Sunday, this is a week-to-week league,” Mills said. “Especially how our team is playing right now, you have to come with that fire and energy each and every week. Celebrate the win, celebrate whatever else happened after that, but now I’m focused on the Denver Broncos.

“It can’t be about anything else. It can’t be ‘I told you so,’ because we have a final goal toward the end of the season.”

A little taste of success clearly isn’t going to his head. Mills even downplayed talk of the Pro Bowl, telling reporters he hasn’t earned that opportunity yet, that there are “a lot” of corrections he could make.

“It’s crazy, but at the same time, I don’t really want to get caught up into it,” Mills said. “Our record is good right now, but it’s not good enough. It’s going out each and every week, preparing the same way, and then on Sunday, competing the same way regardless of whatever has happened.”

What a difference a couple of months can make.

Cornerback was such an area of concern this offseason, the Eagles signed Patrick Robinson in free agency, then proceeded to invest second- and third-round picks into the position. Still not satisfied, the club traded for Ronald Darby during training camp in August.

But Mills has been “the one constant” at corner for the Eagles, according to coach Doug Pederson, while Jim Schwartz says he’s playing “good, consistent ball” — high praise from the defensive coordinator.

It turns out, Mills’ ceiling was a lot higher than most people thought, even inside the Eagles organization, apparently.

And he has the right mindset to continue improving.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a complete player,” Mills said. “I think once you think you’re complete, you’re satisfied, and there’s no reason to be satisfied in this league.”

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

USA Today Images

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

USA Today Images

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.