Eagles

Mailata still getting used to being the de facto starter

Eagles

How far has Jordan Mailata come in his short NFL career?

Well, the guy who used to play as many preseason snaps as humanly possible was pulled out of last Thursday’s preseason opener along with the rest of the Eagles’ starters on offense after just 10 snaps.

This is going to take some getting used to.

“It was kind of weird to me to be honest,” Mailata said on Monday. “I had to ask some of the guys if I take my pads off at halftime. It felt like a weird thing to do.”

If you’re wondering, the pads did come off.

After that, and with the rest of his fellow starters, Mailata became a spectator for the third and fourth quarters, where during the 2018 and 2019 preseasons we watched him go from a newborn football baby to a toddler. Now, the 6-foot-8, 350-pound behemoth is a football man.

And the starting left tackle gig is his.

OK, sure, sure, sure, Nick Sirianni hasn’t named Mailata the starter yet. But if this was a race between Mailata and former first-round pick Andre Dillard, Mailata this summer has already run around the track a few times and Dillard stumbled coming out of the gate. Dillard, who is week to week with a knee injury, can do nothing at practice but watch Mailata continue to pull away with the job he was drafted to do.

Mailata is 24 now and it’s hard to even remember how raw he was just a few years ago as a project seventh-round rugby player out of Australia.

 

Heck, it’s amazing to think about how far he’s come in just one calendar year.

Because remember, Mailata didn’t exactly have a good training camp last summer and the Eagles didn’t go to him at left tackle last season until they already exhausted their other options. Then Mailata started 10 games and played well enough to create the position battle he’s currently demolishing.

“For me, I’m just a lot more confident in myself,” Mailata said. “What I mean by that, is I know I can play this game.”

He knows it and his teammates know it too. Fellow Eagles have been raving about Mailata for obvious reasons over the last few weeks. He obviously has all the physical tools and now — as Lane Johnson would put it — Mailata is beginning to figure it out. And once he does: “He should be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. I’ll say that.”

“You see it,” Johnson continued. “His hands land and guys go flying.”

The fact that Mailata was pulled after just 10 snaps on Thursday was notable because it’s really the first time the Eagles have treated him like a starter when they didn’t absolutely have to. When asked if he saw it as a compliment, Mailata said it just felt weird. Instead of going back on the field, he watched as his teammates kept playing.

Every once in a while, it’s fun to think about how far Mailata has come in a few short years. But he doesn’t like to go back and watch film from his early days with the Eagles. He called it horrible. Horrible.

“It gives me nightmares when I watch early tape,” he said.

Mailata didn’t get much work in the game but that’s the plan with starters. Starters don’t get reps in preseason games; they get reps in practice. And since Dillard has been out with his knee injury, Mailata has begun to stack days with the Eagles’ first-string offense.

“I’m about to lose 20 pounds, all these reps. That’s the bonus,” Mailata joked. “… The experience with running with the ones and doing these joint practices, it’s good exposure for me and sharpening my tools.”

And now that Isaac Seumalo has returned from his hamstring injury, it also means Mailata is getting valuable reps next to the guy who will be starting next to him at left guard this season.

Because make no mistake about it, Mailata is going to win the Eagles’ starting left tackle job. If Sirianni really values fair competition, Mailata will be lining up at the position he’s earned to start the 2021 season.

So he better get used to it.

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