Over the next few weeks of training camp, as the Eagles try to decide who to keep on their 53-man roster, we’ll be catching up weekly with former Australian rugby player and Eagles’ seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata to track his progress as he tries to defy the odds and make the Eagles’ roster less than a year after starting his quest to play American football.
Jordan Mailata thought he had a good week of practice. He thought he was showing even more improvement. And he wanted the chance to show that against the Patriots last Thursday.
Then he played just four snaps.
“I had a lot of good highs and expected to carry that into the game,” Mailata said, “and got just four snaps. There’s nothing I can do about that; I don’t control that.”
What Mailata can control, he does. Like well before Thursday’s game when he had a long training session with future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. Really, that was probably the most productive part of Mailata’s day.
While most young offensive linemen in the NFL have probably worshipped Peters since they were in middle school, Mailata has known about Peters for several months. He learned about Peters watching film while he was in Florida training to try to make a career of American football. It makes sense: if you’re trying to teach a giant Aussie who has never played a snap of football in his life to play offensive tackle, watching Peters is a good start.
When Mailata was at IMG Academy in the winter, he was shown videos of several top offensive linemen like Trent Williams, Tyron Smith, Lane Johnson, and, of course, Peters.
“Then seeing J.P. in person, seeing him train, that’s another thing,” Mailata said. “He’s like an alien. He’s a freak. He really is.”
Peters has plenty on his plate. He’s been working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury and subsequent surgery but is committed to helping his rookie teammates, including a guy who has never played before.
Mailata said during practice that after the first-team reps are done, the first- and third-teams watch the second stringers face off. That leaves some time for the perennial Pro Bowler and the former rugby player to chat. The former gives the latter plenty of tips.
“Honestly, I’m so lucky to be where I am right now,” Mailata said. “I think recognizing that, the players that are in the locker room, especially the veterans, we as rookies are incredibly blessed. Because not only do the coaches go out of their way, the players do too. They give us little tips.”
But that advice doesn’t just come from his teammates on the offensive line. A few times during training camp, Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett, who was acquired earlier this offseason, was seen spending some time working with Mailata after practice.
The main area Bennett stressed to Mailata was about his hand placement and punching. The cool thing is, as camp went on, Bennett saw the progress and then went back to Mailata with more advice. Next time, he stressed the importance of staying balanced.
“Michael B, he’s been a big help,” Mailata said. “He’s always encouraging me.”
It seems pretty clear that despite how raw Mailata is, his veteran teammates see the potential and want desperately to help bring it out.
His goal for the next week
“I think I just need to keep working on the same stuff again. This week, keep my pad level low in the run game and in pass pro as well. Just keep playing with low hips. That’s the massive feedback I’ve gotten from Stout. Now that we get limited reps, it’s very critical in the training session.”