Perry: Versatile Mills could be a big key in defensive backfield


It's been a quiet camp for Jalen Mills thus far.

One of Bill Belichick's early free-agent acquisitions this offseason, Mills hasn't really had his moments in the sun the way Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Davon Godchaux or Matt Judon have.

But with all eyeballs on the goal line at the end of Monday's practice, Mills was front and center. It was a fourth-and-goal situation drawn up by Belichick, with the game on the line, and Mills was aligned across from Agholor.

Perry: New faces making strong impression so far in camp

Cam Newton dropped back to pass and ripped a slant to Agholor, but the throw was wide -- maybe thanks in part to some contact at the line by Mills -- and the offense was forced to run a long lap.

For Mills, who'd gone relatively unnoticed for the first five days of camp save for moments when he was beaten in coverage, it was a moment worth savoring.

"Those are the type of plays you see on Sundays," he said. "In those big-time games, where the offense has to have it, or the opposite, the defense has to have it to win the game or get the offense back on the field for them to get another drive. And so, when you get opportunities like that, you’ve gotta try to make the most of them."

With Stephon Gilmore still on the physically unable to perform list, Mills has seen plenty of reps at corner. Touted as a versatile defensive back who can play just about anywhere in the secondary -- something he did for Philadelphia -- maybe the "game-winning" stop at the end of Monday's session will propel him to more noteworthy moments. Pads should be introduced to Patriots practice on Tuesday, which might mean more opportunities for physicality at the line for Mills.


"It’ll slow the receiver down a little bit," Mills said with a laugh. "You get to touch them a little bit. They’re just out here in T-shirt and shorts. But, no, we get back to seeing what our team has. There’s [going to be] a little more thumping going on."

Other Monday observations

  • Mills was on the wrong end of a battle with a Patriots receiver a little earlier in the practice. Jakobi Meyers shook him and caught a well-placed Newton throw for a touchdown with Mills trailing well behind.
  • After a robust crowd surrounded the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Saturday, it was a fairly light crowd in attendance Monday.
  • Ted Karras remained out after suffering what appeared to be a left leg injury last week. Henry Anderson also had to come out of practice late in the session. He appeared to be involved in a collision in 11-on-11 work, and it took him several moments before he was able to get to his feet and over to the sidelines.
  • Jake Bailey booted one or two off the side of his foot on Monday, but he hit some mammoth shots as well. One sent return man Jakobi Meyers into a sprint backwards that carried him about 15 or 20 yards off his original spot. When Bailey catches one the way he wants to, it goes.
  • Korey Cunningham has seen some quality reps with other top offensive linemen the last few practices. Justin Herron looks like the top reserve tackle, but Cunningham has seen plenty of early work as well.
  • Agholor, offensive lineman Alex Redmond and fullback Jakob Johnson all took laps at different points in the session. Redmond and Johnson were flagged for false starts. Unclear why Agholor was sent off.
  • Agholor, Henry, Sony Michel and Smith all had drops Monday. There were some general ball-handling issues for the Patriots throughout the course of the day. JJ Taylor bobbled a punt. Rhomondre Stevenson, Devin Ross, Kendrick Bourne and Agholor each fumbled in a ball-security drill mid-practice. Stevenson coughed it up twice in that period.
  • Safety Adrian Colbert flashed a bit with a pick of Mac Jones in an 11-on-11 period and a "sack" of Jones coming off the edge unblocked during an 11-on-11 period later in the practice. Colbert's pick came in a non-competitive portion of practice, but the pass bounced off Ross' hands and Colbert showed good reaction time to be able to snag it before it hit the ground.
  • It was another good day for Raekwon McMillan, who broke up a pass in the 7-on-7 period (on Mac Jones) and another later in 11-on-11s (on Newton). He told reporters afterward that both came on what seemed like the same offensive play-call.

Yeah, I think after the (second) play, I told Cam, 'I told you over there not to throw that play.' Hopefully tomorrow I can get one in my hands."

McMillan has had his hands on the football on multiple occasions through five days of practice. He’s also been out early with some of the top kicking-game units. Seems to be doing what he can to put himself in position for a real role come the regular season.