The scene has played out many times over the last few weeks.
Most of their teammates have already left the practice fields at the NovaCare Complex but Jordan Mailata and Eric Wilson remain. It might sound like an unusual, unlikely and even random pairing.
Why is the newcomer at linebacker working after practice with the fourth-year offensive tackle?
“E-Will and I had been here during that break that we had,” Mailata said last week. “We kind of formed a nice little brotherhood with the guys. There were like seven or eight of us here every day. We kind of just connected playing basketball, we lifted after we ran. Just doing all that fun stuff. So when it came down to doing extras after practice, it just kind of felt natural to go and ask him. Can I get a couple reps here?”
So they did. And they continue to.
As Mailata ascends into his starting role in the Eagles’ offense, he’s no longer a project player. He’s not fighting to learn the basics anymore. Heck, a few years ago, he was learning his stance and how to kick. Now, he’s working with Wilson on the next level of his development: Second-level blocking and shifting to the linebacker in empty protection.
Because Mailata (6-8, 350) is huge but he also moves incredibly well. For a linebacker, seeing him run at you on a screen play has to feel like watching a Mack Truck barreling at you.
“The main thing that we do is try to get better,” Wilson said. “Whatever it is that I want to work on that day with him, we do that. And whatever he wants to work on with himself, I help him out with that, whatever it may be. It’s a great relationship and we’re getting better.”
Mailata and Wilson figure to be two very important players for the Eagles in 2021. And both will be first-year starters with the team.
Wilson, 26, had a breakout season in Minnesota in 2020. He started 15 of 16 games and filled up the stat sheet with 122 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions and 8 pass breakups. He signed a one-year deal to join the Eagles this offseason and help run Jonathan Gannon’s new defense. Wilson’s history in Mike Zimmer’s defense in Minnesota is already paying off.
And then there’s Mailata, who was a seventh-round pick back in 2018. The 24-year-old entered a competition with former first-round pick Andre Dillard this summer for the starting left tackle gig and has completely left Dillard in the dust. Nick Sirianni hasn’t yet named Mailata the starter, but it seems pretty obvious.
When both guys were looking for someone to work with after practice, it seemed like a natural fit to work with each other. One of Sirianni’s five core values is connection and these two have connected off the field through another one of Sirianni’s core values: Competition.
So this bond and relationship probably makes the head coach very happy. It’s exactly what he wants.
“We compete,” Wilson said. ”We play a lot of horse, pig, whatever it is. The team will play basketball. Jordan loves to sing and I sing on occasion so we kind of bonded over that.”
And the Eagles might be better for it.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: