Eagles' Jordan Mailata beyond overwhelmed at 1st practice

Eagles' Jordan Mailata beyond overwhelmed at 1st practice

If Jordan Mailata wasn’t so damn busy maybe he’d call the good folks at Merriam-Webster and ask for a little help. See, the giant 6-foot-8, 346-pound rugby player-turned NFL draft pick needs a new word for what he felt after his first NFL practice on Friday. 

Overwhelming isn’t cutting it anymore. 

“I can’t put it on a scale. That’s how overwhelming it is,” the 21-year-old said. “There’s no scale to put it on. So many things that you have to think about. Overwhelming … that’s gone out the window. There’s no word to replace overwhelming. We’ll just say overwhelming.”

Even a dip into the thesaurus won’t help Mailata. Overcome, overpowered, prostrated don’t seem to help him either. And it seems unlikely there are many lexicographers suiting up in the Eagles’ locker room. But his new teammates — even the rookies — are football players, so they can at least help him feel a little less overwhelmed as he tries to make a career of a sport he knew nothing about just a few months ago. 

Mailata doesn’t have to turn far. For now, his popup locker in the Eagles’ dressing room is right next to fellow draft pick and offensive lineman Matt Pryor out of TCU. Pryor was drafted in the round before Mailata — 27 minutes before, to be exact — and is nearly as big, at 6-7, 332. 

Relatively speaking, Pryor was a late-bloomer too. He didn’t begin playing organized football until his freshman year of high school. The Eagles’ sixth-round pick once went with his mother to watch his cousin’s football practice, when the head coach saw a 6-4 Pryor — in the middle of his growth spurt — and called him onto the field. 

“He threw me a pair of cleats,” Pryor said, “and the rest was history.” 

Despite that relatively late start, Pryor went on to have a really productive career at TCU, where he played in 46 games with 32 starts, playing guard and tackle. He hasn’t been playing football as long as a lot of rookies — he tried Pop Warner as a kid but had trouble with the weight limits — but he’s at least played for a big-time college program. Mailata has never even played in a game. Pryor and Mailata both wear size 18 shoes (see story), but Pryor put himself in Mailata’s for a brief moment. 

“Yeah, that would be hard,” Pryor said. “Especially coming from running the ball and tackling and now you have to defend people. I feel like that’s really hard to do. But he has the athletic capability and ability to do it.” 

On Friday, Mailata likened offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s coaching style to drowning. He said it felt like he was thrown into the deep end of a pool and his only life preservers were his teammates. 

“Thank God I had the guys up front to help me,” he said. 

During this past weekend’s three-day minicamp, there were restrictions outlined in the CBA. Players were allowed to be in the building for just 10 hours each day, which wasn’t going to cut it for Mailata as he transitions to a completely new sport. Think about how hard it was for Taylor Hart to switch sides of the ball and multiply that by a lot … or heaps or loads or a great deal or whatever synonym you want to grab from that trusty thesaurus. 

So as of Friday afternoon, Mailata was planning on going to the team hotel and burrowing his nose into the playbook. He said he even told his offensive linemen teammates he’d buy them dinner, just to try to gain a little bit more of their knowledge. 

One thing that surprised him on Friday was about how much his fellow offensive linemen were able to help him during what he called his first “training session,” using a term from his rugby days. 

On Friday, Mailata looked about as uncomfortable with his helmet as Joel Embiid looked with that protective mask or as a dog with one of those cones around its neck. Every chance he got, Mailata grabbed his facemask and pulled the helmet to rest it on the top of his head. 

It’s not just the playbook or the position that is going to be hard for Mailata to learn. It’s everything. It’s new equipment, new terms, new culture. It’s not going to be easy. 

“To make the team, it’s going to be real hard,” Mailata said. 

Hard is one way to put it. But maybe someone should call the dictionary folks, because that’s probably not going to cut it either. 

When do players know their football days are over?

USA Today Images

When do players know their football days are over?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Father's Day weekend. What kind of basketball parent is Barrett? The guys give their 53-man roster after spring practices. Tom Brady says he can feel his playing days are getting numbered. When do players first start realizing that the end is near and what makes that reality most difficult? Also, how should the Giants handle Odell Beckham Jr.'s contract situation?

"I think that Saquon [Barkley] is going to be better than [Ezekiel] Elliott." — Barrett Brooks.

1:00 - What kind of basketball parent is Barrett?
3:00 - Father's Day weekend recap.
5:00 - Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices.
15:30 - Tom Brady tells Oprah the end is near ... when do players start seeing that reality?
20:00 - The hardest part about having to say goodbye to football.
23:00 - Odell Beckham Jr.'s contract situation.

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

The Eagles were just a few days away from the Super Bowl and there was a clear indication of just how loose the team really was. 

On Feb. 1, Carson Wentz tweeted out a photo proving it. 

So, what’s the point of this? Why show a photo that Wentz sent out from an escape room well over four months ago?

Well, because it was a little glimpse into the future. Because the five guys in that photo are going to be the five guys in the Eagles’ quarterback room this season. 

Along with Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld, the other two are Press Taylor (sitting) and Spencer Phillips. This offseason, after John DeFilippo left Philadelphia to take the offensive coordinator job in Minnesota, the Eagles promoted Taylor to take his position as quarterbacks coach and then promoted Phillips to take Taylor’s spot as the assistant quarterbacks coach. 

It was probably a no-brainer. 

And it’s crazy to think, but just a year after the Eagles blocked DeFilippo from leaving the organization, DeFilippo has left … and the Eagles are going to be just fine. 

At the time, before the 2017 season, it made sense to block DeFilippo. He was seemingly integral to the development of a young Wentz and he certainly deserves plenty of credit for the big jump in Wentz’s play last season. But now, without him, the Eagles are going to keep a finely-tuned machine running. And they’re going to do it with a very young and very promising coach. 

Taylor is just 30 years old, which seems incredibly young for a coach who is supposed to lead the most important position room for the Eagles and possibly the most important position room in the entire league. He’s just one year older than Foles. 

He might be young, but Taylor is uniquely positioned to handle this responsibility. And aside from his football acumen — which has been touted by his superiors — it’s his relationship with the players in the room that made him such a no-brainer replacement for DeFilippo. 

“I feel really close (to Wentz, Foles and Sudfeld),” Taylor said last week. “I know what makes them tick going into it. And then we all had our own relationships. Obviously, I wasn’t their quarterbacks coach at the time, but I was in the room, sat through those conversations, had my own conversations out on the practice field. I feel like I know the things they like, the things they didn’t like. And then was able to learn from the other guys, the other coaches in the room.”

After the Super Bowl, Taylor is probably best known in the city for bringing the Philly Special to the Eagles. In his position last year, it was his job to mine gadget plays from around the league and found that play being used by the Bears the season before (see story). And that’s great. But all the stuff we don’t know about last year is what’s going to make the most difference for the Eagles this season. 

Taylor has been with the Eagles since 2013, when Chip Kelly brought him to town. And then Doug Pederson was smart enough (and without ego) to keep Taylor in 2016. The brother of Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, Press has quickly worked his way up the ladder. 

Last week, Wentz was asked if the team wanted his opinion before promoting Taylor. 

“I think it was pretty much known how we felt about Press beforehand,” Wentz said. “We’ve seen Press behind the scenes the last couple years and how hard he works. A lot of guys have a ton of respect for him as a person and as a coach. I know that’s where I sit. So far, it’s been great. He understands the game extremely well. We’re very like-minded, both on and off the field. The relationship I have with him personally and the relationship he has with all the quarterbacks has been tremendous so far.”

The relationship between Taylor and the QBs is so important. Relationships for this entire coaching staff are so important. Really, that’s what has made Pederson so special. He has that “emotional intelligence” and understands how to deal with his players. 

Taylor seems to have that too. And really, that’s why the Eagles’ QB room won’t miss a beat. 

More on the Eagles