‘Hey, Whatever You Need’: Eagles Lucky to Have ‘Unselfish’ CB on Roster

Jalen Mills

Getty Jalen Mills has been making the switch from safety to cornerback this season for the Eagles.

Jalen Mills lives by the personal motto of “The Mood is Set.” It’s more than just lip service, it’s his lifestyle brand. He sells swaggy merchandise and walked up to the post-game podium wearing a lime green hoodie emblazoned with the slogan. So when the Eagles needed someone to sacrifice for the good of the team the other night, Mills did what he preaches and set the mood.

The 26-year-old had been transitioning to safety to start the year but with starting cornerback Avonte Maddox (ankle) out — and only three corners on the active roster — Mills offered to jump back to his old spot. Remember, Mills was the starting cornerback in Super Bowl LII and had started 34 games there in four seasons in Philly heading into Sunday’s game versus San Francisco. He didn’t think twice about it.

“Somebody goes down and it’s the next man up mentality,” Mills told reporters, “and that’s kind of the identity of this team and we embraced it.”

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called it a “really unselfish thing for him to do” and relayed the conversation he had with Mills. There was no hesitation, never a thought of leaving the team high and dry.

“But when the team was in need and our corners were, you know, our corner position was way down and we ask him to do it, it was never even a hesitation,” Schwartz said. “It was like, ‘Hey, whatever you need.’ He worked really hard during the week.”

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Mills Should Stay at Cornerback Moving Forward

It’s not that Maddox has been a liability on the outside, it’s just that Mills has more experience and confidence. He also has significantly better size: a bulkier 6-foot to Maddox’s diminutive 5-foot-9 frame. It showed on the field against the 49ers, mainly in his matchup with 6-foot-1 Kendrick Bourne who was held to three catches for 33 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Mills’ grades were his best of 2020 — 72.1 overall, 73 in coverage.

“One of the messages that was said last night was: give everything you got,” Mills said on Sunday night. “After this game, we want to be dog tired. When we get back in that locker room after the game it should be a deep exhale because we gave everything we got.”

Mills has often been criticized for biting on double moves and lacking speed (4.61 seconds in the 40), but clearly he has a knack for showing up in big games. Who can forget the way he battled Julio Jones in the 2017 NFC divisional playoff round in an epic back-and-forth in the closing seconds.

Mills got the job done then and maybe he should be the Eagles’ starting cornerback moving forward in 2020. Schwartz wouldn’t commit to that when asked on Tuesday, although he didn’t rule it out either.

“Well, we’ll see,” Schwartz said. “We’ll do what we think is best each week depending on who we have available to the game. I thought that was a really unselfish thing for him to do.”

Eagles Activate Craig James to Practice Window

Speaking of injured cornerbacks, the Eagles activated Craig James to the 21-day practice window on Wednesday. Their top special-teams player (and team captain) was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 15 with a thigh injury. James is extremely well-liked within the organization and gives the team more options for their depleted secondary.

Meanwhile, the Eagles also announced that defensive end Vinny Curry had been activated to the 21-day practice window. The pass-rusher went down with a hamstring injury during the season opener. It’ll be interesting to see how fast the team can get both guys up to speed. Adrian Killins — the self-described “fastest man in college football” returned to Philly’s practice squad as well.

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