Eagles

NFC Defensive Player of the Week Jalen Mills not satisfied

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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.”

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

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Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Mack Hollins
Roob: Hollins wasn't really a factor later in the season, once Torrey Smith got going, but he did show early in the year what kind of player he can be, notably with that 64-yard TD catch in the second Redskins game. Depending on what the Eagles do about Smith, Hollins should be either the Eagles' third or fourth receiver this fall. Either way, he'll be here, and I expect him to make a big jump in Year 2.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Hollins caught just 16 passes as a rookie and it seemed like he just never started producing the way he seems capable of. Even when Smith struggled, Hollins got more playing time and didn't produce. The good news is he's still young and plays a role on special teams. The Eagles will probably bolster their receiving corps in some way, but if they don't, Hollins will have a shot at starting if Smith is gone next season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alshon Jeffery
Roob: Jeffery really played better than his stats this year. He made every big catch, caught every big third-down pass, made huge plays in the end zone. Jeffery was a star receiver without a star receiver's stats. His unselfish attitude carried over to the rest of the receivers and throughout the roster. And he did it all with a rotator cuff injury that required post-season surgery. Can't wait to see what Alshon can do healthy.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jeffery didn't put up eye-popping numbers during the regular season, but if you needed any proof he's a No. 1 receiver, go back and watch Super Bowl LII, when he made that ridiculous catch in the end zone for a huge touchdown. The good thing about Jeffery is he really doesn't care at all about his numbers. There are a lot of diva receivers in the NFL, but Jeffery clearly isn't one of them. All he cared about last year was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and he certainly helped get the Eagles there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Roob: Jenkins has so many roles on and off the field — community activist, NFLPA organizer, locker room leader — it's easy to forget just how good a player he is. Jenkins has been here four years and has had four very solid, very consistent, very productive seasons. He made his second Pro Bowl this year and joined Bill Bradley (3) and Dawk (7) as only the third Eagles safety since 1960 to make multiple Pro Bowls. Jenkins is signed to a cap-friendly deal through 2020 and should be an Eagle for many years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: As important as Jenkins is to the Eagles as a safety and defensive back, you could make a legitimate argument that he's even more important to the team as a leader and man. There's a reason he became the guy to follow up Doug Pederson's postgame speeches. He isn't just the leader of the defense; he's the leader of the entire team. And on the field, he's still playing at a really high, Pro Bowl caliber level. He's 30 now but is still signed through 2020 and maybe outside of Fletcher Cox is the Eagles' most important defensive player. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

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Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Darrell Greene
Roob: The Hall of Fame cornerback is now 58 years old and 21 years removed from his last Pro Bowl season with the Redskins. Oh wait … wrong Darrell Green. This is Darrell GREENE, and he's a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard out of San Diego State who's been on the Eagles' practice squad most of the last two years. The Eagles liked Greene enough to keep him around the last couple years, and unless they see something in Chance Warmack that I missed, Greene has a chance to stick around as a young O-line prospect.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Greene has been around now for the last two seasons. He was without a team for most of 2017; the Eagles didn't bring him back to the practice squad until December. The offensive guard had some real potential coming out of San Diego State, and the Eagles paid him a lot of guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent before 2016. But he's never really impressed them enough to stick around for good. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Roob: With Hicks, it's always about durability, not ability. Hicks has played more than half a season only once in his three NFL seasons, and since he's under contract for 2018 with a modest $2.068 million cap figure, he's obviously not going anywhere. The question is what the Eagles do with him after 2018 when he's due to become a free agent. Hicks can play. We all know that. He needs to prove this year that he can stay healthy in order to get a big-money deal a year from now.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Losing Hicks was a problem in 2017 and his absence started showing up late in the season. He's a big-time playmaker. It's a shame he got hurt last year because if he didn't, he'd be in line for a payday. For now, he'll be back in the final year of his four-year rookie contract until he can prove he's the same player he was pre-injury. 

Verdict: STAYS

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Roob: Grugier-Hill must be Howie Roseman's dream. He's signed at the minimum through 2019 but is an awfully valuable member of the roster — a reserve linebacker and emergency kicker and maybe the team's best special teamer. Kamu's not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He really doesn't play at all as a linebacker, but Grugier-Hill has become one of the best special teams players in the NFL and had a real chance to be named a Pro Bowler in 2017. He led the team in special teams tackles with 19 last season. He's still young, cheap and is a big part of Dave Fipp's group. 

Verdict: STAYS