Eagles

Eagles mailbag: How will Jalen Mills fare at his new position?

Eagles
(Pool Photo) Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The Eagles will probably start cutting players tomorrow as they get down to their 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

That means we’re getting close. 

As always, thanks for all your questions. We got so many that I split them into three parts and still didn’t even get to all of them. 

Part 1

Part 2. 

Here’s Part 3: 

It’s probably too early to give you a definitive yes, but early returns are good. I was impressed by how smooth Mills look at the position in training camp. He picked it up quick and was making plays all training camp. 

The one thing I noticed was that he and Rodney McLeod flipped way more in this training camp than McLeod and Jenkins did over the past few years. With McLeod and Jenkins, McLeod was always the deep safety. While McLeod was the deep safety for most of camp, Mills got some work back there too.

It wasn’t like Mills had never played safety before. He played some at LSU and he honestly has a skillset that really fits the position, perhaps more than being a corner. There were plenty of questions about that when Mills was drafted back in 2017: Was he a corner or a safety? He proved to be an OK corner but I think he has real potential at safety, where his lack of long speed won’t be as big of a problem.

 

The Eagles paid him $4 million to start at safety this season but they also hedged their bets some. They brought in Will Parks and they also drafted K’Von Wallace in the 4th. So they have left themselves some options if Mills doesn’t work out this season. I tend to think he will. Will Mills ever be as good as Jenkins? That’s a pretty high bar. Jenkins played multiple positions, never left the field, was a Pro Bowler and the leader of the defense. Mills might not get to that level, but I think he can be pretty good.

I don’t blame Howie Roseman for the basic idea of what he did in 2018 and 2019. The Eagles were coming off a Super Bowl and had that core in place, so he went for it. They signed some older vets and they even traded some draft picks in an attempt to try to get another ring.

Where you can blame Roseman is in the draft. Because right now, the Eagles don’t have a ton of young talent. That’s a problem, especially with a top-heavy roster in cap space. With Carson Wentz’s extension, the focus is on trying to draft young (and cheap) stars. That’s why they wanted to keep most of their picks in 2020 and drafted 10 players; they gave themselves more lottery tickets.

Not really. Avonte Maddox was the starting corner opposite Slay all training camp and I didn’t think he had a good couple weeks. My exact fears about Maddox showed up on the field. Even when he had tight coverage, he was outmuscled for some balls by bigger receivers. Maddox is just 5-9 and while the Eagles say his competitiveness makes up for his lack of height, that’s not always the case.

I really wanted to see a healthy Sidney Jones compete for that job but we didn’t get that to start camp and then Jones got hurt. The only other corners to get reps with the first team at outside corner were Craig James and Rasul Douglas. At this point, we kind of know what Douglas is. He’s an OK backup, but not a starter or a star. And James is primarily a special teams player. 

The Eagles’ best backup cornerback is Cre’Von LeBlanc, who plays the nickel. 

Yeah, Jalen Reagor is going to miss Week 1 and Alshon Jeffery won’t be back. So here’s what we’re looking at in Washington: 

X: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Z: DeSean Jackson 

Slot: Greg Ward Jr. 

I also think the Eagles will work John Hightower and perhaps even Quez Watkins into the rotation. But also remember, the Eagles are still going to use a lot of 12 personnel to get Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on the field together.

During training camp, the Eagles’ D-line was dominant. But you’re right, a lot of that was thanks to the Eagles’ offensive line being in a state of flux.

 

The big question marks right now are injuries. Derek Barnett and Javon Hargrave missed all of training camp with injuries. With those two, this line can be really good. Without them, the Eagles will be OK at defensive tackle with Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway. But I kind of wonder about their ends. They have Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry (who is also dealing with an injury), Josh Sweat and then — no matter who makes the roster — unproven players.

A big key to this season might be Sweat. If he’s able to take a step forward it would be big for the Eagles.

Please mail them to 2 NovaCare Way, Philadelphia, PA 19145. (Don’t do this.)