Jalen Mills Taking Advantage of his Opportunity in Secondary
When the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Jalen Mills with the 233rd overall pick in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft, not many had expected him to have any type of immediate impact on the first-team defense. With the injury bug hitting cornerback Ronald Darby during the Eagles' Week 1 matchup with the Washington Redskins, Mills was once again escalated to the top depth chart.
"Jalen's really playing with a lot of confidence," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Sunday. "He is one of our young players who had the benefit of playing last year as a rookie and just really is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and that's what you're seeing out of our young players."
Mills stood at the top of the Eagles depth chart, and has been a big contributor to the Eagles' defense ever since, including Sunday. Mills finished the day with four tackles, and a interception that was returned 37-yards for a touchdown, essentially sealing the victory for the Eagles against the 49ers.
“That’s huge," Eagles QB Carson Wentz said about the interception. "That’s a huge part of the game. [CB] Jalen [Mills]’s pick-six was huge. That was a huge momentum swing."
“I’ve been watching film hard all week," Mills said after the game on Sunday. "I’ve been studying that route. Knowing [49ers WR] Pierre Garcon, he’s that position receiver and also their biggest route-runner. Seeing the motion go over to the receiver’s side and knowing the rookie quarterback was going to work on me, seeing that on film, I just trusted my technique and trusted my feet and my safety over the top to jump the route. I jumped the route and picked the ball off.”
The 6' 0" and 191-pound cornerback out of Louisiana State University had a solid rookie campaign, collecting 62 tackles, and seven passes defended, but no interceptions. This season, the 23-year old has three interceptions, but finally picked up his first career return for a touchdown, something teammate Malcolm Jenkins addressed this week.
“No, I’ve been getting on him for not having a lot of returns," Jenkins laughed. "That was a good one. He shut me up on that play. We’ve been doing a decent job of getting turnovers, but scoring on those opportunities is something we wanted to take the next step to and Jalen’s been playing big for us all year, and that was probably the biggest play of all of them.”
"He had a couple interceptions this year where he didn't have the greatest run back of all time," joked Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.