PHILADELPHIA — Despite being a late-round draft pick, Jalen Mills has adjusted quickly to life with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The former LSU standout, who was the Eagles’ seventh-round pick, made his presence felt with aggressive play at mini-camp in the spring, and his stock has continued to rise in the preseason. His high-energy play and inquisitive nature among players and coaches have helped further solidify his case to gain a spot on the club’s 53-man roster.
Mills, currently projected as the team’s fourth or fifth cornerback after being a safety his last two years in college, had his first NFL test and responded in typical first-time fashion in Thursday's 17-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He recorded a pair of tackles but was flagged for pass interference and was also beat on some passing plays.
Still, the 6-foot, 191-pounder apparently has time on his side.
“Aside from (quarterback Carson) Wentz, Mills looks to be a real steal (for the Eagles),” said one locally based NFL insider who wished to remain anonymous. “He’s adapted well and looks like a veteran in camp. He has all the tools that can help the club.”
Philadelphia is looking for some solutions in its secondary after allowing a franchise-record 36 touchdowns last season.
Mills is eager to contribute but realizes he needs to see the big picture.
“It’s exciting, but I know I have to calm myself down a little,” he said. “I play with a lot of energy, and I feed off it and my teammates. I know I have to keep everything in focus. I like to be aggressive, but there is a time and place for it.
“I know I need to work and clean up a few things. But I feel good about how I have approached everything so far.”
Mills’ play reportedly has sidelined Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews with a bone bruise on his knee until late August after the rookie made a helmet-to-knee tackle. For Mills, it has been all done in the line of duty.
“I spoke to Matthews after the play, and he had no hard feelings,” Mills said. “He knows it is part of football. (Defensive coordinator) Jim Schwartz is always saying that he’ll put the best 11 players out there on the field. He wants guys who can compete on every play and guys who can play with energy and swagger. That has pushed me.”
Schwartz said he has appreciated the effort and understands his approach.
“He's very competitive and doesn't shy away from contact," Schwartz said. "He taken on challenges, and that’s essential for a corner. Jalen has shown signs that he can do many good things.
"He's still young and a bit inconsistent. He'll have good and bad days, but he battles out there every day."
“(Schwartz) always wants to get the most from me,” Mills said. “He is like my coaches at LSU. They were always pushing me and got everything I could give them.”
Head coach Doug Pederson recently acknowledged that Mills is ahead of 2015 second-round pick Eric Rowe on the team’s depth chart.
“I love his aggression, and he challenges guys,” Pederson said. “He's got great quickness and transition and is a smart kid who is eager to learn. Those are things that really have stood out with me."
Mills will encounter another test when his club meets Pittsburgh on Thursday night. He knows his mettle again will be tested and he doesn’t plan to sell himself short.
“I know these guys are as good as me or better,” he said. “I have to keep pushing myself and can’t let anything get to me. It is a matter of me studying hard with the playbook and film. I know I need to be the best I can on every single down. I feel pretty confident right now.”