Lito Sheppard

Jalen Mills honored by NFL after pick-6

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Jalen Mills honored by NFL after pick-6

Jalen Mills has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance Sunday in the Eagles' 33-10 win over the 49ers.

Mills is the first Eagles cornerback to win the award in a decade — since Lito Sheppard for his play in a win at Dallas on Dec. 16, 2007.

In that 10-6 win at Texas Stadium, Sheppard's interception of Tony Romo and 16-yard return on a pass intended for Terrell Owens set up the only touchdown of the game, Donovan McNabb's one-yard pass to Reggie Brown.

Mills recorded his third interception of the season and a 37-yard return for a touchdown late in the first quarter Sunday. He also had three tackles, a pass defensed and a tackle for loss.

The Eagles limited 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard to 167 passing yards despite 36 pass attempts and a 46.9 passer rating.

"He wants to be the guy to make the play for us," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday of Mills. "But that one, in particular, was a huge play in that game. We had battled bad field position pretty much the whole time. It had been back and forth. We had been fortunate to get some stops. I think that was probably the play of the game, getting that touchdown. 

"Jalen is playing good, consistent ball for us. He's got his hands on some passes. That's a good receiver that he made the break on (Pierre Garçon), and finishing off with a touchdown, that's what we want to do on defense."

Mills, a seventh-round pick last year, is tied for third in the NFL with his three interceptions and shares the NFC lead. He's the first Eagles corner with three interceptions in a season since Brandon Boykin had six in 2013 and only the third player the Eagles have drafted in the seventh round or later in the last 20 years with three INTs in a season (Kurt Coleman and Jamar Chaney both had three in 2011).

His INT Sunday was the first of his career at the Linc.

"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."

The Eagles' last Defensive Player of the Week was Malcolm Jenkins after the second Giants game last year. 

Shepard, the Eagles' first-round pick in 2002, earned three Player of the Week and one Player of the Month award.

Other Eagles corners named Player of the Week were Eric Allen (twice in 1993), Bobby Taylor (1995, 2002) and Sheldon Brown (2004).

The Eagles own the NFL's best record at 7-1 and take a six-game winning streak into their game Sunday against the Broncos at the Linc.

Budding friendship could help Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones become Lito and Sheldon

Budding friendship could help Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones become Lito and Sheldon

It's likely no accident that when Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas walked into the Eagles' locker room for the first time last week, their stalls were right next to each other. 

The Eagles hope they're together for a really long time. 

"We want to build a defense and build a team that can stick together over a period of time," Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said during the draft, "and hopefully this is a first step toward doing that."

Jones, the Eagles' second-round pick, and Douglas, their third, first met in Indianapolis in early March. Both were coming off good 2016 seasons and were considered two of the top cornerback prospects in a draft class full of them. 

They hit it off instantly, chatting between on-field drills. They took turns asking each other how they looked in backpedals and asking each other if they looked smooth during the drills. They met, traded tips and then went their separate ways. 

It was just over a week later when the next event in a series of events that reunited them happened. Jones, considered by some to be the very best corner in the draft, tore his left Achilles tendon at Washington's pro day. The injury dropped him out of the first round and into the Eagles' lap at pick 43 of the second round. 

Fifty-six picks later, the Eagles took Douglas out of West Virginia. And for the first time since 2002, the Eagles had picked two cornerbacks in the first three rounds of the draft. 

Now, they just hope Jones and Douglas will become as productive as Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown once were. 

And it might start with having that same type of close relationship. 

Upon their arrival to Philadelphia for rookie minicamp last week, Jones and Douglas picked up where they left off, growing their relationship. Obviously, Jones has been relegated to a spectator, but that just means they have different roles for now. 

Their budding friendship might end up being important for the growth of each individual. 

"We're just going to help each other out throughout this whole process," Jones said Friday. "If I miss something, he's going to help me. I've asked him a whole bunch of questions already. 

"And he's asking me to watch him on the field and see what he can get better on and I'm trying to critique him. It's just a good process for both of us to learn from each other." 

Jones admitted he's not a patient person and it burned him inside a little bit having to watch practice Friday (see story). He won't get the walking boot on his left leg removed until May 21, and even after that, it's a long road to recovery. 

With Jones out, and with minimal depth at the position, Douglas seemingly has a really good shot of earning playing time and perhaps even becoming a starter as a rookie (see story). So he'll take any tips he can get, especially from Jones. 

"We were just talking," Douglas said Friday, sitting at his locker as Jones sat next to him, staring at his phone, but also likely listening.

"I was asking him what he was seeing on the sideline from me. And how was I on top of the routes and stuff? And he was telling me what he saw. Pretty sure we'll watch film together. I'll catch him up on some of the tips that Coach gave us today at practice while he was at rehab."

The Eagles think Jones and Douglas have complementary skill sets — Jones is the speedier, quicker guy and Douglas is bigger and longer — that could make them a strong duo for the next several years.  

"And when you talk about the receivers in our division, in our conference, (you want) guys who can cover the quicker-twitch receivers and the guys who can take the big strong receivers that we face," Roseman said. 

It's going to take some time before Jones and Douglas are on the field together. There's no timetable for Jones' recovery and it seems possible this will end up being a redshirt season for the 20-year-old. 

But drafting two corners in the first three rounds wasn't about a quick fix. It was about growing the defense behind two talented corners who can help each other become the answer to the biggest question mark position that has stumped the Eagles for years. 

"He's a terrific player," Jones said of Douglas. "Me and him have been kind of close in this short amount of time, getting to know each other. That's going to be my guy for the next four years and more."

Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas selections make Lurie think of 2002 draft

Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas selections make Lurie think of 2002 draft

Even Jeffrey Lurie couldn’t help but draw parallels between the Eagles’ selections on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL draft and certain aspects of the class of 2002. The difference is the stakes might be even higher for Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas than they were when the club took Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown 15 years ago.

Cornerback was by far the Eagles’ most pressing need entering the draft this year, so it was no surprise they came away with two in the first three rounds. Watching the organization choose defensive backs in succession instantly brought back memories of ’02 nonetheless.

That was the last time the Eagles successfully located a long-term solution at cornerback — or any spot in the secondary for that matter — in the draft. The selections of Sheppard and Brown paved the way for seven years of stability at the position, a period during which the franchise went to the playoffs five times, won three division championships and made a Super Bowl appearance.

The Eagles are hoping history will repeat in some sense with Jones and Douglas, although the landscape of the roster is quite different this time around. Sheppard and Brown were able to sit behind Pro Bowl corners Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent for roughly a year-and-a-half.

The sooner Jones and Douglas are able to get on the field for the Eagles, the better.

As far as Jones is concerned, there’s no telling exactly when that will be. The two-time All-Pac-12 defender is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon that dropped him from a potential top-15 pick or higher to No. 43 in the draft. Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman admitted Jones’ availability for 2017 is “to be determined.”

Assuming Jones makes a full recovery as expected — granted, far from assured — we’re talking about one of the best prospects in the draft. Along with the addition of defensive end Derek Barnett at No. 14, Roseman likened it to having multiple first-round picks.

“We just thought it was a really good opportunity,” Roseman said. “We’re really optimistic about it because [Jones] is 20-years-old and in doing all the research that our doctors and trainers did about this injury, we just thought it was a great opportunity for our football team.”

Lurie saw similarities to Jones and another member of the class of ’02, safety Michael Lewis.

Lewis was taken between Sheppard and Brown in the second round and wound up departing as a free agent after just five seasons, though not before earning an invitation to his only Pro Bowl. As it turns out, Lewis was only available to the Eagles in the first place due to a medical condition — one that didn’t prevent him from playing nine years in the league.

“[Eagles owner Jeffrey Lure] just talked a little bit about, ‘Do you remember that draft,’” Roseman said. “If you remember at the time, I think the point he brought up was Michael Lewis had a heart condition and he fell a little bit in that draft because of that, and we kind of took a chance on him here, and so he was, I guess, analogizing it like with Sidney.”

At least Douglas will have the opportunity to play right away, which is something the Eagles desperately need. It’s almost impossible to fault the front office for taking the best player available when he represents such amazing value, even if he is hurt, but the depth chart at corner was in a precarious state.

Had the regular season started on Thursday, the Eagles’ likely starting cornerbacks were 2016 seventh-round pick Jalen Mills and journeyman free-agent signing Patrick Robinson, with little-known Ron Brooks in the slot. At least Douglas serves as competition for the uninspiring group, even if he’s not ready to step in Week 1.

“The thing that really stood out in his week at the Senior Bowl, you guys probably heard me talk about it all the time, this guy is tough and very competitive,” Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “You saw it the entire week. Every rep was like the last rep he was playing. I love the way this guy competes.”

Obviously, the Eagles’ hope is Jones and Douglas are the next Sheppard and Brown, even if that wasn’t exactly the intention. Regardless, there are some potentially key distinctions.

Again, Sheppard and Brown had the benefit of tremendous veteran tutors and time to learn before being thrust into action. Douglas is competing for a job immediately, and if Jones is allowed to play in 2017, there’s a good chance he sees the field. The Eagles are in no position to bring these guys along slowly.

While Jones may be a better prospect than Sheppard was at the time, Douglas is less than Brown, at least in terms of draft capital. Sheppard and Brown were selected Nos. 26 and 59 in ’02. Jones and Douglas went Nos. 43 and 99.

The Eagles hope those will be remembered as minor details. The real plan is for Jones and Douglas to one day soon finally settle those corner spots that have essentially been up for grabs ever since Sheppard and Brown vacated them.

Even the Eagles don’t know if everything is going to work out that way, but based on the Lito-Sheldon draft, the optics sure seem good. Of course, it took the better part of two seasons for that plan to come together, too.