When the Eagles re-signed Jalen Mills and subsequently moved him to safety, I thought the move may work out. I was excited to see Mills in Malcolm Jenkins’ role, his skillset seemed to fit much better at safety than it did at corner.
But three weeks into the season, and it’s pretty clear that I was wrong in that assessment.
He’s been poor in nearly every facet of his game, except for when Jim Schwartz has sent him on blitzes. He’s recorded two sacks already and his Pro Football Focus pass rushing grade is currently at 86. But aside from that, he hasn’t been a great tackler at all — certainly not as good as Jenkins was. And he still struggles immensely in pass coverage.
Through three games, Mills has allowed seven receptions on seven targets, including one touchdown, and has allowed a 131.2 passer rating when targeted. Three games at a new position is a small sample size, I get that. But this is really nothing new for Mills.
In last week’s game against the Bengals, Mills was essentially solely responsible for Cincinnati’s first touchdown of the game. He screwed up on three of the final four plays before Cincy found the end zone. On a 1st and 5 from the Eagles 20, Joe Burrow threw to his running back Giovani Bernard in the flat. Mills was the first defender there, and completely whiffed on the tackle. Bernard picks up the first down.
On the following play, Burrow targets Auden Tate in the end zone while he’s covered by Mills. Instead of playing the ball, Mills blatantly shields Tate from the ball, giving the refs an easy pass interference call, which sets the ball up at the 1 yard line for Cincy.
If Mills just plays the ball here, this may have been an easy interception. Burrow didn’t place the ball on the outside shoulder like he should have.
Two plays later, Mills gets caught up in the Bengals bunch formation, gets caught with his eyes in the backfield, and Tee Higgins runs right past him untouched. Burrow finds him wide open in the back of the end zone.
These aren’t hard plays to make. Mills just isn’t a good safety, it’s as simple as that.
Will Parks is eligible to come off IR this week, but it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to go against the 49ers. It’s safe to say when he’s available, he’d be an upgrade over Mills.
Then we have rookie K’Von Wallace, a fan favorite throughout the offseason. He’s only played seven defensive snaps so far this season, so obviously Schwartz doesn’t think he’s ready yet. It’s also hard to envision Schwartz straight up benching Mills in favor of an unproven rookie, since Schwartz has always had a soft spot for the guy.
I’d like to see Wallace get some more work on defense — he’s a natural safety who brings a lot more potential to the table than Mills. If we’re being honest, Mills probably won’t be back next season, especially if the season continues down the path it’s currently on. There would be no justifying bringing back a below average player for another year when you have a promising rookie waiting in the wings.
So why not let Wallace play? There wouldn’t be much drop off at all and he’d be getting valuable experience before being named the clear cut starter next season.
I do like Mills, I’ve always liked his attitude. But seeing him continuously struggle and still act like he’s a difference maker out there is getting old. It feels like Schwartz is just trying to find ways to keep this guy around at this point, but there will come a time where his personal bias with Mills needs to get thrown out the window.
Benching Mills in favor of Parks or Wallace wouldn’t miraculously fix this defense, I just don’t see the logic behind keeping Mills out there anymore.
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