Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins met with the media on Monday and touched on a number of topics. One player he kept bringing up during his press conference was second-year cornerback Jalen Mills. After the seventh-round rookie played a lot in 2016, it’s clear the team has high expectations for him moving forward.
Find a complete transcript of Jenkins’ press conference below. In addition to hyping up Mills, Jenkins also gave his thoughts on ome 2017 NFL Draft cornerback prospects.
WHY ARE YOU SO CONFIDENT IN JALEN MILLS?
I’m more impressed by his mentality and approach to the game. I think that’s, at the corner position, probably 90% of what it is. And he also has the athletic gifts, but his competitiveness and willingness to work and get better day in and day out is something that has been impressive since he got here. It hasn’t changed. I think as we push a little bit more load onto him, I think he’s built to handle it.
ARE YOU EXPECTING THE CORNER POSITION TO LOOK AT LOT DIFFERENT THAN IT DOES RIGHT NOW?
You hope so. You lose two starters, I know we’ve got a lot of faith in Jalen Mills. I’m excited to watch him really mature into a starting cornerback because I think he’s going to have a breakout season. I know Patrick Robinson, I’m familiar with him. He’s a first round draft pick in New Orleans when I was there. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s been banged up so hopefully he can get healthy. I think he can add something to the team. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are improving, but have shown a lot of potential. C.J. Smith last year really shocked all of us and kind of rose as an undrafted free agent rookie, to make the team, to get active. And so I know he’s looking forward to an opportunity to compete. Aaron Grymes, coming out of the Canadian league, had an awesome camp, got hurt, and we signed him back. So there’s a lot of competition but we do need a solid number one corner just to add some more depth to that room and hopefully we can address that in the draft.
DO YOU THINK THE DEFENSE CAN BE BETTER THAN LAST YEAR DESPITE LOSING SOME STARTERS?
Yeah, I mean I know at the end of the season we felt like we probably needed to add a corner or something. Just one or two pieces to the defense. And like you said, we ended up losing four starters. So now it puts you in a little bit of a replacement mode. But I think the guys that we do have coming back really can solidify what we’re doing. I like having Rodney next to me for the second year in a row. We’re excited about Jalen Mills. I think the loss of Beau Allen is probably bigger than most realize since we lost Bennie Logan. But losing Bennie and Connor [Barwin] was big, even from a leadership and coaching standpoint. But I think we’ve replaced them with some pretty good guys. The draft is something definitely that, as a leader on defense, I’ll be looking at because we’re going to have to hang our hangs on some younger players.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CORNERS IN THIS DRAFT? HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THEM AT ALL?
Besides the ones from Ohio State? Nope. [laughs] We got the No. 1 corner in [Marshon] Lattimore, [Gareon] Conley is another good one. This draft, from what I understand, is a really saturated draft when it comes to DBs. It’ll be fun to watch those guys make their way.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THOSE TWO GUYS?
Well, Lattimore is a true press man to man corner. Very athletic. Conley is a long guy who is always in position, makes good plays on the ball. The more and more you watch him, the more impressive he gets. Obviously they’ve been the starters this past year. Really good season. Looking forward to them kind of transition to the league.
TAKING YOUR FANDOM OUT OF THE EQUATION, DO YOU SEE THESE GUYS AS FIRST ROUND TALENTS?
They’re all pretty young. I think Malik Hooker is the better one, probably the best out of all of them to me. He’s the one guy within three games of watching him I’m like, OK, he’s going to be a high commodity. Lattimore, I think everybody saw his athleticism and as the season went on the consistency that he played with obviously kind of vaulted him. But Conley too, and I think a lot of times you lose him while you’re watching Lattimore and Hooker. But when you turn on the tape and you watch him consistently, he deserves all the hype he’s getting.
SEEMS LIKE CORNERBACK IS A HARD POSITION TO EVALUATE. A NUMBER OF GUYS HAVE FLAMED OUT. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
The talent level is … obviously there’s a huge jump between college receivers and NFL receivers. And the consistency that you have to have as a corner in the league. In college, you play four or five legitimate receivers in a whole season. Where this year, I feel like every team we played has a number one big time name. So that’s hard to transition. And there’s scheme and what you’re asking that guy to do compared to what he did in college. It’s just a hard position to evaluate, let alone the psychological makeup that you need to be resilient and competitive. There’s no real formula for it.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE IN TALENT BETWEEN LATTIMORE AND CONLEY?
I think it’s just two different styles of play. I think Lattimore is an in-your-face, press corner who’s really athletic. Can run with anybody. Conley, he can press, but I think he’s more of a technician. He probably plays zone a little bit better. He reminds me of kind of a Richard Sherman style player where when the ball is down the field, he’s always in good position. He turns into the receiver. Long. It just depends on what you’re trying to ask them to do.
DOES EITHER OF THEM FIT THE EAGLES BETTER?
Well whoever we bring in is … all of our corners are asked to press all the time. We change it up every now and then to play off, but the majority of what we’re doing is going to be press man.
DO YOU THINK COLIN KAEPERNICK’S PROTEST HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH HIM NOT HAVING A JOB NOW?
I think it plays a part in it. I don’t think it’s the entire equation. But I think it would be foolish to say that it’s not a part of it. We’ve seen guys even like Tim Tebow who didn’t do anything controversial, yet people still evaluated just the gravity he has as a player. So I think that’s definitely in the evaluation process. I think we’ll see closer to training camp, if he’s not on a team, then most likely it probably is because of his political views more so than it is his talent.
WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE EAGLES TAKE IN THE FIRST ROUND?
I mean, I’d love to get a DB. I’d love to get Conley because I don’t think Lattimore will be there. We need corners. And I need another Buckeye on the team, so, selfishly, I’d like to take him. [Smiles]
HOW MUCH PRESSURE DOES THE EAGLES TAKING A YOUNG CORNERBACK PUT ON YOU AND RODNEY MCLEOD TO HELP BRING HIM ALONG?
It’s less pressure now. This is the first year for me being here that I’ve been with the same safety for two years now. So I think having that helps because now you got stability at the safety position that has to make all the calls, get everybody lined up. So it makes it a lot easier to have some young guys on the outside. I think we’re going to put a lot of pressure on Jalen Mils to really step up and be that guy for us in his second year in this defense. But we’re also going to put a lot of pressure on some of the other guys too that have been here because we’ve got a young room. For us to be successful, we’ve got to have success out of the corner position.
GOING BACK TO THE KAEPERNICK THING, HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THE MONEY HE’S ASKING FOR HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH NOT BEING SIGNED?
I think there’s multiple reason. I think that’s some of it. He wants to be a starting quarterback, and wants to get paid like a starting quarterback. The pool for him right now is small. But I also know that there’s been GMs and coaches who have verbally said they wouldn’t sign him regardless. So I think it’s a little bit of both. I think when you add all of those equations, the pool for his demand is very small at this moment.
DID THEY SAY IT WAS HIS DEMANDS OR THE OTHER ISSUES?
Oh they said it was the other issues. His political stance.
DID THE EAGLES-SAINTS TRADE RUMORS BOTHER YOU?
No, they didn’t. I mean I’ve been in the game long enough to know there’s no such thing as an irreplaceable player. Just depending on what that price tag is. I know the Saints have been active in trying to get me back in that building. And that’s before those trade rumors, this was back probably during the season. So the fact that conversations are being had surrounding me doesn’t bother me, because I understand the business. And Howie [Roseman] — we talked and he alluded that he wanted … that I’m a big of what we’re doing here. He wants me to be an Eagle. They need the leadership and what I bring to the field. And I understand that and everything. So I’m good.
ARE YOU SURPRISED/ALARMED THAT BOTH 2016 STARTING CORNERS ARE GONE?
No. That’s kind of been one of the hot topics over the last couple seasons, is the consistency at the corner play, or at the corner position. We’re asking them to do a lot, so that’s a tough place to be at in this defense. And I know we’re searching for a true number one corner to truly hold up.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE AN IDEAL JIM SCHWARTZ CORNER? A NUMBER ONE GUY?
I don’t know if I can describe that. I haven’t played with one yet.
BECAUSE HE AIMS SO HIGH?
Yeah, the demand is high. It’s somebody who’s gonna … you’ve gotta play press man the majority of the time. You’ve gotta win down the field. And that’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to be able to hold up against the best receivers in the league down the field on a consistent basis. And anybody who watches football knows that in this league, that’s tough to do.
HOW FAR AWAY ARE THE EAGLES FROM THE PLAYOFFS?
I don’t think we’re far away at all. You look at the [NFC] East from last year, We lost to the Cowboys in overtime. The second game they didn’t play their starters. We’re not far away from beating them two games in a row, or two times in a row. We compete with the Giants every year. The Redskins seem to give us trouble, but we’re very competitive in the East. And so now it’s just about how do you stack up wins and continue to stay consistent toward the end of the year. I think that just comes with experience. It comes with maturity. I feel like we’re a couple pieces away from winning the East and making the playoffs.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MEMORIES YOU HAVE LEADING UP TO THE DRAFT AND BEING DRAFTED?
I remember just not really trying to worry about anything. People were asking where I thought I was going to be drafted. I really didn’t care. I knew I was going to make it to the NFL and that’s all that really mattered to me. I was kind of very, very trusting in the process that it would work out in my favor. And it did. I got drafted the Saints, won a Super Bowl my rookie year. And at the draft, I just remember being around my family and friends and getting that call from Sean Payton and at that point in time, it’s a life-changing experience. Not only for you but for your family, everbody who’s kind of played a part to get you this platform. It’s an exciting time.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ALSHON JEFFERY?
I think he’s a true number one receiver, even in Chicago he didn’t really have much help around him but still was productive. I’m excited to put him next to a Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews. He’s either gonna … it’s gonna be real opportunistic for him, or he’s going to open up windows for them. Even with Zach Ertz. So I think just adding those two guys, I think really helps Carson [Wentz] out. Takes a little bit of that pressure off of him. And I think it’ll get us better as a team. We get to compete against him, a number one receiver, on a day in and day out basis, which is something that we really haven’t had. I’m excited.
DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE USED MORE JUST AT SAFETY THIS YEAR THAN THE SLOT TOO?
Well I was begging to be in the slot last year. So my role in the last couple years is really by choice. This year, it depends on the depth. I want to be able to get the best five DBs on the field. So if in order to do that I gotta play safety the whole time, then I’m willing to do that. But I’m sure we’ll have versatility in our packages based on matchups and teams we play. The way we play the Giants is going to be completely different the way we play the Redskins, just because the Redskins have two dynamic tight ends. The Giants have three dynamic receivers. So that nickel package will be a lot different. It’ll be different from week to week.
IF THEY DRAFT A GUY LIKE JABRILL PEPPERS, WOULD HE FIT IN?
Uh, I’m sure we can find … I’ve been in a three safety defense before in New Orleans with myself, Roman Harper, and Kenny Vaccaro. And that’s basically what we did, is between me, myself, and Vaccaro, we were interchangeable. We went from strong, to free, to nickel in a bunch of different packages based on matchups. So I definitely think there’s room for it. I think versatility really gives you that flexibility to really match up against anybody. I don’t mind matching up against receivers. Having me in there at the nickel and having him at safety is not an issue, or vice versa.
DO YOU IDEALLY JIM SCHWARTZ WOULD WANT ONE DESIGNATED SLOT GUY?
No, I mean I think you’d want that if you didn’t have versatile players, but to have a room full of guys that understand multiple positions, is a commodity because it’s a matchup league. So no matter what the offense come out in, you have an answer. Sometimes you got teams that have athletic tight ends, like the Redskins, and they’re basically playing three wide receivers sets with two tight ends, so you gotta go nickel to that. And if they start running the ball, if your nickel is too small, all of a sudden you’ve got issues. So to have a guy that can do both, is rare. But it gives you a lot of flexibility. A little bit of an advantage.