Seventeen minutes and eight seconds into Monday night’s game against the Bears, Jalen Mills thought he had a read on Alshon Jeffery.
The Bears’ star wide receiver hesitated in his route for a split second, and Mills thought he was going to turn his go route into an out route. Mills lunged towards where he believed Jeffery was headed, just one step, but Jeffery was already gone, sprinting up the right side of the field.
Jeffery caught a 49-yard pass from Jay Cutler which, if not for a disruptive pass rush, would have been a touchdown. The blame for the play fell solely on Mills’ shoulders, and he owned it.
When he returned to the sideline, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod were among the people who talked to Mills about what went wrong. Jim Schwartz and Cory Undlin also talked to the rookie.
"They were like, ‘Hey, you know you can cover that route,’" Mills explained Wednesday. "‘That was on you. It wasn’t anything he did to you. That was just you being too aggressive, not really staying disciplined.’"
It was a little bit of constructive criticism from the people Mills says have been his biggest supporters. Jenkins and McLeod trust Mills, and they told him they knew he could stay with Jeffery if he didn’t make the same mistake again.
He didn’t. Jeffery caught just two passes for 23 yards for the rest of the night.
"I’m confident in myself, for sure," Mills said, of his ability to bounce back. "But … by having them show me they have confidence in me, that automatically put it back into me."
Mills said Jenkins and McLeod have been great fonts of information and coaching as he tries to make his way in his first NFL season. The way they orchestrate the defense helped him settle in to the sudden spike in playing time he saw when Leodis McKelvin missed Monday’s game with a hamstring injury.
"Anything that happens, there’s talk on the field," Mills said. "I’m really comfortable playing with my two safeties over the top, because I know if any error happens, they can fix it, or if a certain formation comes, Jenkins and McLeod are smart enough to convert it to where they put me in a better position to make a play, or the defense."
Mills, 22, was available to the Eagles in the seventh round because of off-field issues. In 2014, he was arrested and accused of punching a woman. He was passed on for six rounds not because teams thought he couldn’t make it with his talent, but because teams were concerned he wouldn’t be able to handle life in the NFL.
It hasn’t been terribly long, but so far, Mills has been busy showing his coaches that he belongs in the league. Having men like Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod in his life to keep him focused certainly helps.
Ertz: Not much pain, just a waiting a game
As his teammates slid out of pads on Wednesday, Zach Ertz stood at his locker stall in a plain red t-shirt. Ertz didn’t practice Wednesday; he hasn’t since suffering a rib injury in the Eagles’ opener against the Browns.
At the time, Ertz said, he figured it was just an AC sprain. So did the team’s doctors.
"I didn’t think anything of it during the game," he said. "Obviously I’ve played with AC sprains before. That’s what I thought it was, that’s what the doctors thought it was. When the doctors tell you you’re good, I’m not going to second-guess the doctors."
As it turned out, it was more severe than initially thought. Now, he’s going to go without playing in a game for three weeks. The Eagles have a bye after this Sunday’s game against the Steelers, which he will be inactive for.
Things are coming along, Ertz said, but there are still severe limitations on what he’s allowed to do. He can lift weights and do cardio exercises, both which he’s doing to keep in shape for his return.
But he’s not allowed to do anything football-related, as far as drills are concerned. It’s just waiting for the rib to heal correctly.
It’s not even a case of pain tolerance, Ertz explained.
"I’m not in a lot of pain right now," he said. "It’s just a matter of healing. … If it was a lower rib, and the pain was what it is now, I’d easily be able to have played last week."
He wouldn’t disclose if the team’s doctors had given him any sort of timeline for a return.
Mychal Kendricks was walking around the locker room with a pretty noticeable limp on Wednesday. He suffered a quad strain against the Bears. If he doesn’t practice Thursday, I would be surprised to see him play on Sunday. The Eagles have six linebackers on the roster, including the practice squad. According to the official depth chart, Kamu Grugier-Hill is the team’s backup to Kendricks.