Jalen Mills is an outstanding young defensive back. He’s got tremendous savvy, meaning he’s smart, a leader and he loves the game. The young man is also a fierce competitor. Mills is all the things you like to see in a football player, BUT he is not an outside cornerback because he just does not have the pure foot speed to run with the faster receivers in the league.
Jalen runs a 4.6 in the forty. After working on his start and being trained to run the forty-yard dash he ran a 4.48, but when DeSean Jackson took off on that first play of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mills ran a 4.6 because that’s his real foot speed. Nearly every team has a receiver that runs a 4.4, 4.3 or better, so Mills is going to have to deal with these speedy receivers all year long, if you leave him at that outside cornerback position.
They should’ve moved him inside during the offseason. This is not a good time to do it, but you don’t have much of a choice now. The competition in the NFL has exposed this flaw in the Eagles secondary. Sidney Jones has the ability, speed and savvy to be a great outside cornerback. Like Ronald Darby on the other side, Jones has the pure foot speed to run with those guys.
“They have to [tell] Mills… that he will be able to play a long time
in the league at slot corner and safety.”
Mills could be a great slot corner or safety because in both of those positions you have to make plays against the run. He’s a willing and sure tackle, so Mills is just what the doctor ordered for the slot corner or safety positions. He has the mental qualities of a good safety because he’s smart, tough and possesses leadership qualities. He would be a great candidate to be taking over for McLeod right now.
I could tell yesterday at the news conference, when Doug Pederson was talking about evaluating players and deciding who to start and sit, he was thinking about making sure not to injure the psyche of a young man, Mills, whom he needs going forward. They have to pull Mills into a room and let him know that he will be able to play a long time in the league at slot corner and safety. If he keeps getting beat on those deep routes at cornerback, he will be out of the league in a couple of years. Tell him you believe in him, give him a hug and keep it moving.
In the near future, I could see the Eagles moving Jones outside to the left cornerback position, putting rookie Avonte Maddox at slot corner and inserting Mills at safety ahead of Corey Graham and next to Malcolm Jenkins. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good time to be making all those changes. You want to move as few guys as possible, so I think they will basically switch Mills and Jones, leave Graham at safety and have Maddox playing dime.
The Eagles secondary coaches didn’t do a good job of moving these guys around during training camp and letting them play different positions. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t giving Rasul Douglas work at safety. He’s a young backup cornerback with great size and coverage skills, but they weren’t letting him work at safety during training camp. That’s not smart when you consider all the injuries that occur all the time in the NFL. If Douglas knows how to step in at safety, it makes him more valuable and that is true for everybody else lining up back there.
They have to move Mills inside because when he’s left out on the corner and they run a deep route, he just cannot run with the faster receivers in this league. It’s just that simple, and it has now been exposed. Mills is an outstanding football player, but he’s playing out of position right now. The coach’s job is to put the players in the positions so they can succeed. I know this is humbling, but they should move Mills into the slot and also start getting him ready to take over at safety in the near future. He has the ability to be a phenomenal safety.
Think about if they had moved Mills into the nickel or slot corner position and had him getting some work at safety during the off season, they would be able to move him into Rodney McLeod’s safety position because he is the defensive back most capable of moving into that spot right now and not missing a beat. Mills has the same savvy and versatility that McLeod and Jenkins bring to the position. He’s a good tackler but can also lock a receiver down man-to-man, which are the same qualities of McLeod and Jenkins. I don’t think Graham has the ability to cover receivers man-to-man like McLeod, Jenkins and Mills. Stay Tuned.