NFC Defensive Player of the Week Jalen Mills not satisfied

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NFC Defensive Player of the Week Jalen Mills not satisfied

Jalen Mills isn’t merely holding his own in his second NFL season. Some would say the Eagles cornerback is in the midst of a breakout year, perhaps even worthy of Pro Bowl consideration.

It’s not farfetched. Mills already has 10 pass breakups and three interceptions at the midway point, and he gained some recognition nationally on Wednesday, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with a pick-six against the 49ers.

Plays like that and the resulting exposure are going to help put Mills on the map, especially given the Eagles’ 7-1 record — although the 23-year-old insists he couldn’t have done it himself.

Mills is crediting his Eagles teammates for his success.

“I’m blessed, but at the same time, I talked to Chris Long before this practice, I talked to [Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins],” Mills said after learning of the award.

“I told those guys that really goes with them — the D-line getting pressure, then having guys like Malcolm and [Rodney McLeod] help me with film study and understand different tendencies, understand how guys are going to attack our defense.

“I think this award is really for those guys because they help me a lot.”

The Eagles’ defense has been spectacular as a whole, but Mills has taken a big step forward as well.

A seventh-round draft choice, Mills wound up playing extensively as a rookie, the outcome of which was about what you would expect. He wasn’t bad considering the circumstances, just inconsistent.

Mills finished his first year with a 97.7 opponents’ passer rating in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus — tied for 53rd out of 79 qualifying cornerbacks. Fans were critical nonetheless, while analysts were skeptical as to his ceiling.

Eight weeks into the ’17 campaign, Mills is 30th with an 80.9 rating in coverage. The LSU product is proving his doubters wrong as the Eagles’ de facto No. 1 cornerback, and nobody could blame him for pointing it out.

Instead, Mills is continuing to go about his business the same as always, preparing for the Eagles’ next opponent.

“Regardless of whatever I did Sunday, this is a week-to-week league,” Mills said. “Especially how our team is playing right now, you have to come with that fire and energy each and every week. Celebrate the win, celebrate whatever else happened after that, but now I’m focused on the Denver Broncos.

“It can’t be about anything else. It can’t be ‘I told you so,’ because we have a final goal toward the end of the season.”

A little taste of success clearly isn’t going to his head. Mills even downplayed talk of the Pro Bowl, telling reporters he hasn’t earned that opportunity yet, that there are “a lot” of corrections he could make.

“It’s crazy, but at the same time, I don’t really want to get caught up into it,” Mills said. “Our record is good right now, but it’s not good enough. It’s going out each and every week, preparing the same way, and then on Sunday, competing the same way regardless of whatever has happened.”

What a difference a couple of months can make.

Cornerback was such an area of concern this offseason, the Eagles signed Patrick Robinson in free agency, then proceeded to invest second- and third-round picks into the position. Still not satisfied, the club traded for Ronald Darby during training camp in August.

But Mills has been “the one constant” at corner for the Eagles, according to coach Doug Pederson, while Jim Schwartz says he’s playing “good, consistent ball” — high praise from the defensive coordinator.

It turns out, Mills’ ceiling was a lot higher than most people thought, even inside the Eagles organization, apparently.

And he has the right mindset to continue improving.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a complete player,” Mills said. “I think once you think you’re complete, you’re satisfied, and there’s no reason to be satisfied in this league.”

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.