There are a handful of questions surrounding this team as they prepare to enter the 2020 season. One of the most notable, is who will step in to fill the vacated safety spot that Malcolm Jenkins held down during his tenure in Philly.
Some believed the front office would make a push to trade for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams earlier this offseason, but Howie and the defensive coaching staff seem to feel comfortable with the current group at their disposal. As of right now, given the fact that there won’t be any preseason games, all signs are pointing towards Jalen Mills starting opposite of Rodney McLeod once the regular season starts.
Changing positions is never an easy process in the NFL, but that’s what was asked of Mills this offseason. From what we’ve heard out of camp so far, Mills is embracing the challenge, and McLeod also believes he’ll thrive in the new role.
“It seems like even within the couple of days we’ve been together as a unit that he’s really taken a step further,” McLeod said. “I’m very confident that we will be good once Week 1 hits and he’ll be ready to rock and make a lot of plays at this new position.”
Mills has never been one to shy away from the spotlight. Although his confidence and constant finger wagging can be an eye roller for fans, especially when he gives up more big plays than not, that confidence should serve him well as he transitions to safety.
“You just got to be a ballplayer at the end of the day,” Mills told reporters Thursday. “For one, you have to know, of course, the defense, but I think it’s no different as far as playing corner and safety other than just a little bit more tackling.”
The communication between the two safeties will be pivotal to their success this season. Jenkins and McLeod built their relationship over four years and became one of the smartest safety duos in the league, and probably the best duo of safeties the Eagles have had this century.
Although the offseason has been all virtual this year, Mills and McLeod made a point to constantly talk over the offseason and watch film together. “We have meetings with our coaches, but we also took it a step further and started meeting individually, to start watching film together, work on calls, communication, making sure he sees the games the right way, as he’s now switching positions,” McLeod said. “I believe the chemistry is going to be a lot easier than a lot of people think. And so far, so good,” he added.
Mills played safety during his final two seasons at LSU and earned All-American honors from CBSSports.com. This isn’t a whole new ball game for Mills. He already knows the defense, and as long as him and McLeod are on the same page, the transition shouldn’t be too difficult.
Truthfully, I’m not supremely confident in Mills. I think K’Von Wallace will be the eventual starter at safety, it’ll just depend on how Mills plays early on in the season, and whether Wallace is mentally ready. But given the unprecedented offseason with no on-field action, it’s hard to imagine Jim Schwartz not going with a veteran who knows his defense.