PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Everything always seemed so fluid with Jalen Mills at every level of football he’s ever played. Then he was in the NFL and the starts-and-stops began. Too much thinking. Too much overanalyzing. Not enough reaction. It seems almost every second of training camp Mills is looking to get better.
The second-year cornerback out of LSU is sitting there with Patrick Robinson in the locker next to his going over steps and routes. He’s constantly calling and texting Malcolm Jenkins on technique, on schemes and protection. Mills’ aim is simple this year: Don’t think, just play.
The Eagles may have a decent situation at cornerback, regardless of what some pundits may like to think, with Mills, Robinson and rookie Rasul Douglas in the mix for starting cornerback positions.
One of the slots is open, and Mills knows it.
“I did too much thinking my rookie year and not enough reacting,” Mills said. “I think that’s the biggest difference in my game. I feel a lot more comfortable, and that comes with learning and having the game slow down around me. I have a lot of smart guys around me, like Jenkins, (Rodney) McLeod and learning from Nolan (Carroll) and (Leodis) McKelvin last year has made me a better player.
“I benefitted from listening to those guys and not being the big-head rookie who thinks he knows everything. From the last game of the year against Dallas until today, I’ve been texting Malcolm. Last night we were talking football. Over the break (from mini-camp), when I was training in Texas and Malcolm was here in Philly, we were talking about football. I want to learn more from them, and the more that I know, the more comfortable I’m going to be on the field.”
Mills says his film consumption is even greater. He broke down film on his own last year, but did more studying this offseason. He even consumes film before practice.
The Eagles could be a very good team this year. Much will depend on how the cornerbacks play.
Mills knows the talk. He knows the word is the Eagles are supposed to be weak at cornerback and in their secondary.
“That’s what that is, talk, it’s irrelevant to me,” Mills said. “Anything anyone can say about me or this group right here is irrelevant to me. It’s motivating, and I’m self-motivated. I’m a perfectionist who tries to improve. I want to go back to who I was at LSU, playing in front of 100,000 fans, going out there playing, being reckless and having fun.”
Jenkins sees a bigger picture for Mills. The veteran safety has really taken Mills under his wing. If you saw one of them in the offseason, chances are, the other was right behind.
“The biggest thing I look for in rookie corners is their resilience and ability to compete, and that’s Jalen,” Jenkins said. “A rookie corner is going to go through scrutiny and they’re going to go through scrutiny in the public eye, because they’re out there by themselves. Jalen handled it well last year and he has the drive to get better.
“Jalen has my trust. I see the potential for Jalen Mills to not only be good in this league, but to be great. I see the need for us for him to be great. What proved to me he wants to be great is his willingness to ask questions. I never went to him, he sought me out. And his willingness to work is something else I like. He’s very coachable. He’s hungry and thirsty to get better at everything, whether it’s tackling, press technique, scheme, he wants to be an expert at all of it. To me, that’s what usually separates players in this league. It’s not athletic ability. It’s about players wanting to get better at their game. That’s Jalen.”