Surviving Camp Part 5: Jordan Mailata reflects on all his progress

Surviving Camp Part 5: Jordan Mailata reflects on all his progress

Over the last few weeks, as the Eagles have been trying to decide who to keep on their 53-man roster, we’ve been 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. This is the fifth and final part of our “Surviving Camp” series. 

Surviving Camp Part 1: This is all new

Surviving Camp Part 2: More comfortable with guitar in hand

Surviving Camp Part 3: Staying relaxed before first game

Surviving Camp Part 4: Learning from all-time greats 

Way back in late April, when the Eagles drafted Jordan Mailata in the seventh round, the former rugby player was at the draft in Dallas but hopped on a conference call to answer questions from reporters in Philadelphia. 

That’s when I asked Mailata how much he knew about American football just a few months before. And that’s when he said something that has kind of stuck with him in the months since: 

“Mate, as little as peanuts.” 

Mailata joked he just used peanuts as an analogy because he loves food. With the final preseason game coming soon, and as it nears time for Mailata to learn his roster fate, it was time for yet another progress report.  

He gave the update in the only appropriate way. 

“I’d say … we’d have probably a quarter of the bag,” Mailata said Sunday afternoon. “I don’t know how many peanuts that is or how big the peanuts are. Maybe they’re big peanuts.” 

Big peanuts, small peanuts, a quarter of a bag, half a bag, it doesn’t really matter. Call it whatever you want. The important part is that Mailata started with almost no understanding of a game he was setting out to play professionally and in a few months has probably already shown enough for the Eagles to think they might be on to something. He’s come incredibly far, even just in the last five weeks we’ve been meeting weekly for progress reports. 

On Sunday, when I told Mailata this was our last meeting for the series, he joked he might cry. “Five weeks feels like two months,” he said. 

When we began this series, I likened Mailata to an infant, assuming we’d see monumental growth in short periods of time. I nailed that one. Because of Mailata’s inexperience, paired with his incredible athleticism, we’ve seen him grow leaps and bounds every week this summer. 

He couldn’t help but laugh when asked what his film from the spring looked like compared to the film from Thursday’s game against the Browns. 

“Oh wow, it’s atrocious,” Mailata said. “It probably still is atrocious now, but back then, when I came for rookie minicamp, it was pretty bad.”

The most striking difference about Mailata from then to now is just how much smoother he is. After months of repeating technique, his muscle memory is beginning to take over. He still looks like a really raw football player, but he doesn’t look completely foreign to the game anymore. 

The one area in which Mailata thinks he’s improved the most since coming to Philadelphia is in pass protection. In rugby, he was used to going forward. But as an offensive tackle, it took a lot of time to get used to retreating and then blocking. Mailata said he has a “growth mindset” and still has a long way to go as a pass protector. 

But his skills were clearly on display Thursday in Cleveland. He expected to play very little and was surprised when the coaches told him to go in as early as he did. He ended up playing 26 snaps (39 percent).

“Last week, the big emphasis was on focusing for four seconds out there. That’s all. Four seconds,” said Mailata, talking about the real-time length of a play. “Think about your assignment and carry out your assignment with everything you’ve got. 

“[Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] was like, ‘You should be coming off the field asking for an air tank!’ That was my goal last week. I tried to do that the best I can. And the next thing you know, I was grabbing the air tank. He was like, ‘That’s how you should feel!’”

During this process, Mailata has given a ton of credit to Stoutland and to his veteran teammates who have helped him along the way. That’s fair; without them, he’d probably be drowning. 

But Mailata deserves a ton of credit too. All the athleticism in the world wouldn’t have meant squat if he wasn’t coachable, if he wasn’t willing to learn from his mistakes and if he didn’t have the patience to go from knowing nothing about a sport to playing it professionally in less than a year. 

Based on how well Mailata has played this summer, the Eagles might be forced to keep him on their active roster for fear of poachers. Other NFL teams have noticed how good he’s looked too. 

With that in mind, it seems likely Mailata is able to land on the Eagles’ roster, even if he doesn’t play at all this season. 

“We’ll see,” Mailata said. “Still got one more game to go. Nothing is concrete yet. I’m just focusing this game.”

He’s focused on Thursday, but his future after that appears very bright.

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Analyzing jersey numbers for Eagles’ 12-man UDFA class

Analyzing jersey numbers for Eagles’ 12-man UDFA class

The Eagles began the offseason with 13 undrafted free agents but are down to 12 after they cut QB-turned-WR Khalil Tate last month. 

Instead of cutting more UDFAs, the Eagles instead trimmed their roster down by cutting players who they’ve already gotten a chance to evaluate. They kept 12 of their 13 UDFAs and now those guys have jersey numbers. 

Those jersey numbers were revealed this weekend (h/t Bleeding Green Nation): 

3: Manasseh Bailey, WR, Morgan State 

Not a great sign for Bailey to get a number he won’t even be able to keep if he makes the team. Bailey (5-11, 195) is obviously a long shot to make the team. The numbers at receiver show that but so does his contract. Bailey got a $7,500 signing bonus and $32,500 guaranteed, one of the lowest paid of the UDFA class. 

A history at No. 3 in the regular season: Roger Kirkman, Jack Concannon, Mark Moseley, Eddie Murray, Todd France, Reggie Hodges, Nick Murphy, Mike Kafka, Mark Sanchez

33: Grayland Arnold, DB, Baylor 

The Eagles clearly like Arnold quite a bit. He’s typically the first player the team talks about when mentioning this undrafted class and the money looks good too. He got a $15,000 signing bonus and $90,000 guaranteed. Just three other players got more guaranteed. While No. 33 hasn’t yielded great results in recent seasons, it’s a solid number for a defensive back. 

A history lesson at No. 33 in the regular season: 3 Guy Turnbow, Ray Spillers, Bob Masters, Taldon Manton, Jack Banta, Steve Sader, Russ Craft, Roy Barni, Willie Berzinski, Bill Barnes, Merrill Douglas, Don Jonas, Ollie Matson, Ron Blye, Steve Preece, Randy Jackson, Ronald “Po” James, Louie Giammona, Mike Waters, William Frizzell, Kevin Bouie, Tim Watson, Aaron Hayden, Eric Bieniemy, Thomas Hamner, Terrence Carroll, Clinton Hart, Donald Strickland, Jack Ikegwuonu, Jerome Harrison, Jordan Poyer, Chris Prosinski, Ron Brooks, Dexter McDougle, Josh Adams

38: Mike Warren, RB, Cincinnati 

OK, it’s not a great number but the Eagles didn’t have many options either. The only numbers in the 20s available are 25 and 27. The Eagles haven’t given away 25 since LeSean McCoy left and 27 was Malcolm Jenkins’ number, so the team might wait to give that away too. And 38 was the only number in the 30s available. The Eagles gave Arnold 33 but he has to share that with running back Elijah Holyfield. So maybe it’s a good thing for Warren to not have a defensive player wearing his number. 

A history lesson at No. 38 in the regular season: Bill Fiedler, Jake Schuehle, John Huzvar, Rob Goode, Sam Baker, Tony Baker, George Amundson, Bill Olds, Larry Barnes, Steve Atkins, Mickey Fitzgerald, Jairo Penaranda, Russell Gary, Rich Miano, Dexter McNabb, Charles Dimry, Cecil Martin, Jorrick Calvin, Keelan Johnson, E.J. Biggers, Aaron Grymes, Kenjon Barner, Orlando Scandrick

41: Prince Smith, DB, Southern Illinois 

Smith doesn’t have great odds of making the team. He got $34,000 guaranteed and a signing bonus of $9,000. And the No. 41 isn’t great. But this was the number Ronald Darby wore during the Super Bowl season. After 2017, Darby switched to 21 when Patrick Robinson went to New Orleans. 

A history lesson at No. 41 in the regular season: Ted Schmitt, Foster Watkins, Buist Warren, Gil Steinke, Frank Ziegler, Jerry Norton, Bob Freeman, Howard Cassady, Harry Wilson, Richard Harvey, Randy Logan, Earnest Jackson, Keith Byars, Alvin Ross, Fred McCrary, Johnny Thomas, William Hampton, Thomas Tapeh, Stephen Spach, Tanard Davis, Antoine Harris, Jarrad Page, Emil Igwenagu, Randall Evans, Ronald Darby, De’Vante Bausby

46: Michael Jacquet, DB, Louisiana-Lafayette 
46: Adrian Killins Jr., RB, UCF 

The Eagles gave away 46 to an offensive and a defensive rookie — never a good sign. And let’s be honest: 46 isn’t a number that Jacquet or Killins is probably happy to have. Jacquet’s salary is notable, though. He got $90,000 guaranteed and a signing bonus of $15,000. And Duce Staley the other day raved about Killins’ tape. Killins is small (5-8, 177) but he’s an electric and speedy player. 

A history lesson at No. 46 in the regular season: Don Miller, Ted Wegert, Brad Myers, Glen Amerson, Lee Bouggess, Herman Edwards, Chris Gerhard, Izel Jenkins, Markus Thomas, Fredric Ford, Quintin Mikell, Jon Dorenbos

48: Elijah Riley, DB, Army 

Riley got $50,000 guaranteed with a signing bonus of $7,500 and is another long shot to make the roster. This number will probably always be associated with Wes Hopkins in Philly. Hopkins wore 48 his entire career from 1983-1993. 

A history lesson at No. 48 in the regular season: Eberle Schultz, Ben Scotti, Jay Johnson, Greg Oliver, Martin Mitchell, Wes Hopkins, Steve Hendrickson, Andre President, Jon Ritchie, Josh Hawkins

59: Dante Olson, LB, Montana 

I think No. 59 is a really solid linebacker number and it’s been worn by some pretty good players for the Eagles, including Seth Joyner. This is a good pull from an undrafted linebacker who didn’t even get a signing bonus and got just $10,000 of guaranteed money on his contract. But given the Eagles’ situation at linebacker, he probably comes into camp thinking he has a shot. 

A history lesson at No. 59 in the regular season: Joseph Wendlick, Mike Evans, Tom Ehlers, Al Chesley, Joel Williams, Seth Joyner, Carlos Bradley, Mike Mamula, Derrick Burgess, Mike Labinjo, Dedrick Roper, Nick Cole, Brian Rolle, DeMeco Ryans, Joe Walker, B.J. Bello

61: Julian Good-Jones, G, Iowa State 
61: Raquan Williams, DT, Michigan State

I will say that this is a much better number for Good-Jones than it is for Williams. Sixty-one is much more of an OL number than a DL number. But I also think there’s a better shot Williams sticks around. Check out the money: 

Good-Jones: $32,000 guaranteed, $7,500 signing bonus
Williams: $100,000 guaranteed, $15,000 signing bonus

A history lesson at No. 61 in the regular season: Tony Cemore, Joseph Frank, Gordon Paschka, Duke Maronic, John Michels, Tom Louderback, Howard Keys, Arunas Vasys, Tony Guillory, Bill Dunstan, Mark Slater, Ben Tamburello, Matt Long, Eric Floyd, Theo Adams, Steve Everitt, Giradie Mercer, Adrien Clarke, Mike Gibson, Julian Vandervelde, Stefen Wisniewski

74: Luke Juriga, C, Western Michigan 

It’s interesting because I think 61 is a better center number than 74, but 74 is still a solid OL number and it just became vacant when the Eagles cut Daeshon Hall a couple weeks ago. Juriga had the biggest guarantee and signing bonus of the entire UDFA class. Who knows, maybe he’s the center of the future. 

A history lesson at No. 74 in the regular season: Walter Barnes, Frank Wydo, Len Szafaryn, Jerry DeLucca, Riley Gunnels, Frank Molden, Steve Smith, John Niland, Donnie Green, Leonard Mitchell, Mike Pitts, Tim Mooney, Gerald Nichols, Bernard Williams, Edward Jasper, Doug Brzezinski, Jeremy Bridges, Winston Justice, Nate Menkin, T.Y. McGill, Daeshon Hall

85: Noah Togiai, TE, Oregon State 

The only numbers in the 80s that were available were 85, 87 and 89. If the Eagles are still hesitant to give out Celek’s old No. 87, then 85 is a much better option than 89. And 85 just became available recently when Alex Ellis was cut. Togiai has a real shot to make the roster; he’ll battle with Josh Perkins in training camp. 

A history lesson at No. 85 in the regular season: John Shonk, Tony Bova, Charles Gauer, Bob Friedlund, Jay MacDowell, Billy Hix, Bob Schnelker, Ralph Smith, Gary Ballman, Marlin McKeever, Charles Smith, Mel Hoover, Ron Johnson, Jesse Bendross, Mickey Shuler, Jeff Sydner, Art Monk, Mark Ingram, Antwuan Wyatt, Chris Fontenot, Na Brown, Freddie Milons, Sean Morey, Darnerien McCants, James Casey, Alex Ellis

As a reminder, here are the jersey numbers for the 10-man draft class: 

2: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma 
18: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
42: K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson
52: Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado 
54: Shaun Bradley, LB, Temple 
56: Casey Toohill, DE, Stanford 
63: Jack Driscoll, OT, Auburn
72: Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
80: Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Mississippi 
82: John Hightower, WR, Boise State 

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Why one NFL analyst believes the Eagles are a 'perfect spot' for Antonio Brown

Why one NFL analyst believes the Eagles are a 'perfect spot' for Antonio Brown

This has been a strange year, and sometimes strange things beget strange things.

The Eagles signing walking locker room distraction Antonio Brown? Yep, that would be strange.

But at least one NFL analyst believes Brown and the Birds would be an ideal pairing.

Mike Florio put that opinion forward Monday morning on ProFootballTalk, as he and Chris Simms each chose three teams they think are "most likely" to sign the embattled wideout. Here's the list they came up with:

Seahawks, Packers, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, and Saints.

The Eagles were listed fourth in the duo's discussion. Here's why Florio thinks Brown landing in Philly is a good idea:

I will go with the Eagles next. They need that threat, they need that presence. And especially with the stuff that went down with DeSean Jackson several weeks ago - even though that has died down, from a health standpoint you don't know what you're getting from Jackson. He had a great Week 1 game last year, and then he was nothing the rest of the season. He's older, older than Antonio Brown by a year or two. And you look at the lack of weapons around Carson Wentz, and you think back to what Wentz was able to do with a revolving door of slappys last year. 

I think the Eagles would be a perfect spot, and I think that's an organization that could find a way to - you remember the emotional intelligence buzzword from Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the team, when they hired Doug Pederson to be the coach. I feel like Pederson could find a way to press the buttons, and hold it together, and get the most out of Antonio Brown. It would really make that offense better.

I understand what Florio is saying here. Pederson has indeed shown an ability to hold a locker room together in the face of adversity - the Josina Anderson-Carson Wentz leaks, for example. And the Eagles, when they signed Michael Vick in 2009, showed a willingness to give second chances.

But I don't see this one happening.

For one, Brown was suspended last week by the NFL for the first eight games of the 2020 season. Brown was suspended for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy, and he still has an ongoing league investigation into a lawsuit filed by his former trainer, in which she alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Brown.

Which means the information learned about Brown, and his ultimate punishment from the league, could both get even worse. That simply doesn't sound like a situation the Eagles want to get involved in, no matter how dire their wide receiver situation becomes.

Not to mention that Howie Roseman made a point to try and make the Eagles younger this offseason, and Brown, 32, simply doesn't fit that approach.

Would Brown make the Eagles better if - not when - he eventually played in a regular season game? Yeah. We don't know what kind of football shape he'd be in after extended time off, but Brown caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in his only 2019 appearance, and he was one of the two or three best receivers in the league from 2013 to 2018. Brown can obviously still play, even if he might never return to his absolute peak form.

Still, I'd be absolutely shocked if that upside outweighed the almost innumerable risks that come with adding a player like Brown.

Brown has said he is looking forward to "new beginnings" after his suspension, and that may be true. I just don't think he'll find that beginning in Philadelphia.

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