Is Jalen Mills truly ready to take over as one of the Philadelphia Eagles safeties?
In the wake of the Philadelphia Eagles making the decision to part ways with safety Malcolm Jenkins this past offseason, questions are abundant about how Philly intends to replace his leadership. The belief of many is the de facto starter at safety with Rodney McLeod is Jalen Mills, but wait a minute! Wasn’t Mills just staring at free agency himself? More importantly, hasn’t he played cornerback at the professional level for his entire career?
The Eagles awarded Mills with a one-year, $4 million contract extension on March 24th. He’s also played safety before, albeit with the LSU Tigers at the collegiate level. Mills shouldn’t be expected to provide the Eagles with what Jenkins did, at least not right away. Those that think he can do so might not be totally aware of everything that Jenkins did for this defense.
Last season, Jenkins accounted for four forced fumbles, five sacks, and 63 tackles while giving up just one touchdown in pass coverage. He pretty much worked as a quasi-linebacker, whose main focus was to disrupt things at the line of scrimmage.
Jenkins didn’t have snag any interceptions or break up any passes. That’s where Mills can make a name for himself. In seven games last year, he registered 36 tackles and one interception. If he can keep up that kind of production after switching positions, he will more than likely seize the Eagles’ strong safety job for more than just a single season.
There are others behind Jalen Mills in the competition for the Philadelphia Eagles starting safety job
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz should be excited about the prospect of Mills playing safety given his versatility, but the room for error will be slim. Philly also brought in free agent Will Parks and selected K’Von Wallace out of Clemson in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Parks, like Mills, signed a one-year deal during the most recent offseason. He also played both cornerback and safety for the Denver Broncos, so he may have a leg up on the younger Wallace as the third man in the safety rotation. Last season, Parks saw 124 snaps at the safety position and 293 in the slot corner position. He tallied 24 tackles and one interception in 14 games. Did you catch that? Mills posted more tackles despite playing less.
That brings us to Wallace. If this is a competition, and there’s no reason to believe that it isn’t, he’ll have a harder time beating out Mills for a starting role. Without organized team activities to help shape him during the offseason and with no guarantees as to how training camp will unfold, he’s got a tough hill to climb.
The Eagles coaching staff thought enough of Mills to give him an opportunity to replace Jenkins in the lineup. If he can successfully make the transition from corner to safety, he may get a longer and richer deal next offseason. If not, the Eagles can still part ways with him without having to deal with many repercussions.