Jalen Mills

The biggest hurdle as Jalen Mills attempts to change positions 

The biggest hurdle as Jalen Mills attempts to change positions 

The good news is that Jalen Mills knows the Eagles’ defense. And he knows the safety position. 

Now he just has to learn the safety position in the Eagles’ defense. 

The effectiveness with which he does so will have major implications for the Eagles in 2020 as the team tries to have the former cornerback replace their veteran leader Malcolm Jenkins in the secondary. Jim Schwartz thinks Mills has all the tools to play safety in his defense but Mills has to prepare to play it in a most unusual offseason. 

The toughest part of this transition for Mills comes down to one word: Communication. 

That’s why once the virtual spring began this offseason, Mills and returning free safety Rodney McLeod put in extra time on their own. The two had private film sessions to work on chemistry and communication. At Mills’ request, they started with Week 1 and went through the Eagles’ opponents for the 2020 season. 

I really just wanted to hear the way that he communicated,” Mills said. “Because, of course, he’s been on the back end and I was playing on the outside. Now, me hearing how he’s communicating. I told him I didn’t want to switch anything that he did because he’s been successful at that spot. Just more of learning from him and the different type of verbiage that he uses. 

“So I don’t get out there and say something and it may throw him off or slow him down. I just wanted to make sure that he’s still playing fast. At the end of the day, I know the defense, I just want to get the exact verbiage that he may have been using on the back end.

For the last four years, McLeod has played next to Jenkins and the two developed a rapport. While McLeod has played with Mills, it has been in a completely different capacity. They need to be way more in sync this year to make things pop. 

Mills explained that when he played outside corner, if he couldn’t hear a call from the MIKE linebacker, he’d look to the sideline for a hand signal and then be ready for the snap. But as a safety, Mills will have more responsibility. Once he gets a call, it’s part of his new job to relay that information. He’ll have to make sure everybody — corners, linebackers, defensive linemen — knows the call. 

And to do that, it’s all about communication, knowing how to communicate with the rest of the defense. That’s where those extra sessions with McLeod came into play. 

Mills also needs to get rid of some of the rust when it comes to just thinking like a safety again. It’s been a while since he played the position at LSU. 

“Making sure he sees the game the right way as he’s now switching positions and the hardest part for him is not defense, right?” McLeod said. “Like he knows all the schematics but it’s now lining up in a different spot. It’s now him understanding, ‘Where do I need to have my eyes here?’ ‘How are you seeing things?’ 

“I believe the chemistry, man, is going to be a lot easier than people think. And so far, so good. It seems like within the couple of days that we’ve been together as a unit, he’s really taken a step further. I’m very confident that we will be good once Week 1 hits and he’ll be ready to rock and make a lot of plays at his new position.”

While the Eagles are technically already in training camp, their first practice won’t happen until Aug. 12. After that, their first padded practice won’t be until Aug. 17. 

So from the time the Eagles begin padded practices they’ll have less than a month to prepare for their season opener in Washington on Sept. 13. That means less than a month of practices for Mills to make his position switch. 

That’s where that extra time might really pay off. 

If Mills doesn’t work at safety, the Eagles also have free agent Will Parks and rookie K’Von Wallace on the team. But it’s pretty clear that Mills is the guy to get the first crack at the job. 

“Though he is making a position switch,” McLeod said. “I think he will thrive in his position.”

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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Jalen Mills sends cryptic tweet about LeSean McCoy signing with Eagles

Jalen Mills sends cryptic tweet about LeSean McCoy signing with Eagles

LeSean McCoy is currently a free agent, but with training camp bearing down on the NFL, he could find a new home soon. Will it be here in Philadelphia? It's possible.

McCoy told NFL Network on Friday that he's been in talks with a "few teams", and while he declined to name which teams, he did outline the kind of team he wants to sign with.

Here's what McCoy said:

I think at the point in my career, not just playing football. I want to play for the right team. I want to be able to contribute. I want to be able to win another championship.

Then, on Friday afternoon, Eagles safety Jalen Mills fired off this tweet:

Hmm. That's a pretty pointed message, Jalen!

Mills is expected to take on a larger leadership role with the team this year, after Malcolm Jenkins left in free agency, which means his voice probably carries farther in the locker room, and in the organization. It's interesting to see him take a stance on which players he'd like the team to pursue.

Mills isn't the first Eagles veteran to speak up about adding McCoy this offseason. Earlier this year, DeSean Jackson referenced a McCoy signing on Instagram, and Lane Johnson said he would "want to see it".

It's starting to feel like a number of influential players want McCoy in midnight green, sooner rather than later.

McCoy himself opened up about the idea earlier this year:

It would mean a lot for me to play back [in Philadelphia] when I'm done - to finish, I should say, my career out there. That'd be excellent. That's like home for me.

Most signs are pointing towards the Eagles signing a veteran running back to backup Miles Sanders, and if Devonta Freeman is out of their price range, don't be surprised if McCoy winds back up in Philadelphia.

McCoy, who just turned 32 earlier this month, is the Eagles all-time leading rusher. Last year, he rushed 101 times for 465 yards and four touchdowns with the Chiefs, and caught 28 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown.

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Why Jalen Mills says NFL players' mindsets need to change to battle COVID-19

Why Jalen Mills says NFL players' mindsets need to change to battle COVID-19

The Eagles are expected to begin training camp in less than two weeks, and football will look a little different amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Safety Jalen Mills has been preparing for the 2020 season all summer long, a big year for the fifth-year player as he tries to take on a bigger leadership role in the secondary.

It's unclear if the NFL will hold a full training camp, play any preseason games in August, or begin the regular season on time. Things are largely up in the air for guys like Mills, who are expected to be ready when play starts. It's a tall task.

But Mills is trying to take a practical approach to the NFL's plan, and he said this week the players also have a role in making football safe to play.

In a conversation Wednesday with NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark, Mills discussed how he views a safe return to football.

One big part of being able to play in 2020, Mills said, will be players adopting a new mindset:

If any player does feel any kind of illness coming over them, [they need] to report it to the training staff. Football is a sport where we've always been taught to gut through things, fight through things if you can play through it. It's, 'I feel sick today, but I can practice today, I can just sweat it out.' But at this time, that's not the type of attitude we need to have.

This is a really smart point from Mills, and it echoes the same problems football had with convincing players to take concussions seriously.

There are only so many roster spots and snaps to go around during a season, and while players want to be safe, it's also a battle with the guy next to you every day to stay on the team and to continue earning a living.

It won't be easy for some, especially those on the fringes of NFL rosters, but players admitting that they feel sick and informing the team immediately will be a crucial part of the NFL being able to safely play a full 2020 season.

Mills also discussed this week's statements from the city of Philadelphia about whether fans will be allowed at home games this season. As the COVID-19 pandemic currently stands, the city says, fans wouldn't be allowed at home games, but that can change.

Mills knows the impact Eagles fans have on games, and he said Wednesday he's holding out hope that he'll see the diehards at the Linc sooner rather than later:

I do think that eventually, sometime down the line - it may not be at the beginning of the season - but I feel like sometime down the line in the season, we are going to be able to see Eagles fans in the stadium. I just think it's going to happen, they're going to find a way with the right protocols to make sure everybody stays safe, and they are able to watch football, like the city of Philadelphia likes to do.

The Eagles are scheduled to play their first home game of the season on Sept. 20 against the Rams.

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