After early hiccup, Eagles' Jordan Mailata finds stride in NFL debut

After early hiccup, Eagles' Jordan Mailata finds stride in NFL debut

One would assume Jordan Mailata was beaten for a sack on the first play of his first NFL game because it was also the first time he was playing organized football at any level — but that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Judging from the way he played the rest of the night, nerves may have as much or more to do with Mailata getting beat than the fact he’s still totally new to the sport.

“Going into next week’s game against the Patriots, I’ll feel a bit more comfortable,” Mailata said after the Eagles’ 31-14 preseason loss to the Steelers (see breakdown). “I just had some jelly legs out there on my first snap.”

Mailata entered the game at left tackle in the third quarter and immediately received an education. Steelers linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi went right around the 6-foot-8, 346-pound Australia native and stripped the ball from Eagles backup quarterback Joe Callahan.

It felt like a harbinger of things to come for Mailata, a professional rugby player until the Eagles selected him with a seventh-round draft pick in April.

Instead, the 21-year-old elevated his performance.

“I tried to finish strong,” Mailata said. “I think I did reasonably — reasonably — well in the last quarter.”

Mailata was quiet the rest of the night, which is paying a compliment to an offensive lineman. He definitely wasn’t on the hook for any more sacks, didn’t make any glaring mistakes, wasn’t called for any penalties and didn’t really allow much more pressure on the quarterback.

At one point, Mailata even did something quantifiably good, jumping out of his stance while a Steelers defender was in the neutral zone before the snap to draw a five-yard penalty.

“[Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] usually at training says if a guy jumps, go ‘Oogaboogabooga,‘” Mailata said. “That’s what he calls it, oogaboogabooga.

“As soon as I saw him jump, I was like, ‘Oogaboogabooga.‘ In Stout we trust.”

Stoutland wasn’t the only person on the Eagles’ sideline lending a helping hand. Fellow left tackles Jason Peters and Halapoulivaati Vaitai were in Mailata’s ear the entire time, as were many other others.

“Everyone,” Mailata said. “Coach Stout, vets, everyone was helping me out. It was really nice having that support, especially after that first play and I f----- it up. That’s pretty much what happened, but I own my mistake and I know I’ve learned from it.

“I felt there was a lot at stake. At the same time, the vets kept reminding me just keep focusing on the next play. They told me, ‘You’re going to make mistakes, and when you make it, focus on the next one and we’ll fix it the next day.’”

It didn’t look like Mailata made too many mistakes, though. To the contrary, while it was only his first NFL game — first football game of any kind — it looked like this experiment may very well pay off for the Eagles.

“I love [football] now,” Mailata said. “I just need to get more comfortable and more confident. That’s the only way to improve my game.”

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Nick Foles vs. Tom Brady matchup headlines Eagles' 2nd preseason game

Nick Foles vs. Tom Brady matchup headlines Eagles' 2nd preseason game

Will it actually finally happen? Will Tom Brady actually shake Nick Foles’ hand?

That might be the biggest drama going into the Eagles’ second preseason game, Thursday night against the Patriots at Gilette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

Brady famously blew off Foles after the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII Feb. 6 in Minneapolis.

Instead of meeting his counterpart at midfield for the customary postgame handshake, Brady slunk back to the Patriots’ locker room, never to be seen again.

Foles has downplayed the lack of a postgame handshake, but it was definitely perceived by many as a lack of class by the four-time Super Bowl MVP toward the 2017 Super Bowl MVP.

“It’ll happen when it happens,” Foles said after practice Tuesday. “We practiced with the Patriots (in 2014) and I got to stand there and talk to Tom quite a bit he’s a great guy. I have all the respect in the world for him.

“I think everyone’s making a big deal about this and it’s not a big deal at all. I’ve already talked to him before, he’s a guy I’ve always looked up to. You’ve got to admire someone who’s probably the greatest ever and still going strong at even at his age.

“He seems to get better and better. I already had a conversation with him before when we practiced. If we have one in the future, we have one and it’ll be cool.”

Foles didn’t play in the preseason opener against the Steelers because of neck spasms, but he’s practiced this week and will start Thursday night in Foxboro.

Head coach Doug Pederson wouldn’t say how long Foles will play or which of the other quarterbacks would play.

“I do expect him to get in the game,” Pederson said. “For how long I don't know, but I do expect him to get a few plays in this game.”

Obviously, Carson Wentz won’t play and presumably Christian Hackenberg isn’t ready, so Pederson will have Foles, Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan available.

And even though Foles won’t say it, there is a certain irony that he’s making his 2018 debut against the team he beat six months ago in one of the most exciting and dramatic Super Bowls in history.

“Pretty familiar with the opponent,” Foles deadpanned.

But as far as seeing deep meaning in a Super Bowl rematch? Foles isn’t having any of it.

“We’re in training camp right now, we’re grinding through it, we’re growing as a team, we have new players, guys rotating in and out, so you stay pretty busy throughout the day.

“Now that we’re getting closer to gametime, we’ll be honing in on who they are and what they do, what coverages they like, what they like to do on defense, but not any reminiscing.

“This is a new season, new people, new players. Obviously we wear the same logos as last year but we both have a new identity. This is the time of year we grow together as a team and that’s really all I’m focusing on.”

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Roob Knows: Jason Kelce trivia with … Jason Kelce

Roob Knows: Jason Kelce trivia with … Jason Kelce

On the latest edition of Roob Knows, Reuben Frank explains why this is the deepest roster Doug Pederson has had in Philadelphia. The Eagles are loaded at wide receiver. Why there is absolutely no downside signing Christian Hackenberg. Also, Roob tests Jason Kelce with trivia questions about Jason Kelce.

1:00 - Deepest team Doug Pederson has had.
5:00 - Injury updates.
8:30 - Eagles stacked at WR.
12:00 - Looking forward to preseason game 2.
14:30 - Why did the Eagles sign Christian Hackenberg?
18:30 - Jason Kelce answers trivia questions about Jason Kelce.

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