One of the more intriguing storylines for the Eagles this offseason was Jalen Mills’ transition from cornerback to safety.
While the safety position isn’t completely foreign to him — he played in college — he spent his first four NFL seasons at corner. But the Eagles signed him to a one-year deal to remain with the team, but to take over the safety position vacated by Malcolm Jenkins.
In training camp, early returns were good. But without preseason games, we’ll really find out in the opener.
“I feel great. I’m ready. I’m prepared,” Mills said on Friday. “Training camp is a little bit different, in that we didn’t have preseason games and things like that, but I’m ready to show this organization, show the NFL, show the world what I got at safety.”
For what it’s worth, Mills has always had a skillset that seems to lend itself to playing safety, especially in the box, where he’ll play the majority of the time.
But in last year’s game against New England, the Eagles used him in a more versatile role and it was that game that let the Eagles think he could make the transition full-time pretty seamlessly.
“From high school on up to going to LSU, I was always taught to be a defensive back,” Mills said. “By me saying that, it’s not being a one-dimensional guy, not being a guy who can only play corner, or a guy who can only play safety, a guy who can only play nickel or dime. Being a defensive back and being a guy who can play any position on the field at the highest level. So as far as it being more suitable, I think I just call myself being a football player.”
The Eagles are paying Mills $4 million to be a starting safety this year but they signed him to a one-year deal. They also brought in Will Parks and drafted K’Von Wallace, so they’ve given themselves other options if Mills doesn’t work out.
But the Eagles are also hoping Mills can become a long-term solution at safety. While he has dealt with some injuries in his career, he’s still just 26, Jim Schwartz loves him and if his play can finally consistently match his competitiveness, the Eagles don’t want him to leave.
During training camp, Mills got a chance to work with Rodney McLeod in a different way than he had before. And, according to middle linebacker T.J. Edwards, Mills has been extremely vocal, something they need from that box safety.
“As you guys know, Mills, he has no fear,” Edwards said. “So a guy who takes on a lot, and I think he does a good job just of making sure everyone's on the same page at all times, which is kind of what we do, so to have that guy from the back end doing that same thing is, it kind of just helps the whole defense flow better, so it's been really good, and I'm excited to see us all just kind of get out on the field and just let it loose.”