It took some of us a while to get there, but the water is officially boiling. The Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles are in hot water too and in need of a change. I’m not talking about left guards, either. I’m talking about polarizing cornerback Jalen Mills.
Let me be clear; Mills is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to our issues in coverage. Far from it. Rodney McLeod’s serious injury has left defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz scrambling for answers and so far his attempts have been as unconventional as they’ve been futile. That said, there’s one change that makes sense for a number of reasons.
That change is benching Jalen Mills.
A lot of the blame that gets placed on Mills is unfounded, but that just shows you just how much blame there is to go around right now. At some point it’s pointless to defend the small things and more productive to make the big change.
Why has it taken this long? First, Schwartz is Mills’ biggest fan. When faced with questions about Mills, he’ll often harken back to the 2017 playoffs and the role he had in the Eagles success. This is not unfounded; Mills played very well during that run despite some volatile play throughout the season. Naturally that will give a player a longer leash. Fans are guilty of this too, but this isn’t about the now silent cult following of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, this is about breaking points.
Pro Football Focus’ coverage stats are tricky thing. They’re good tools, but they often need verification that only film can bring. Unfortunately for Mills, the film isn’t kind to him either, so it’s hard to argue against the data in this case. So what do the analytics say about his performance?
Mills is the 6th most frequently targeted cornerback in the league. Enemy quarterbacks have attacked him 35 times. In turn, he’s conceded 25 receptions (2nd most), 385 yards (2nd most), 124 yards after catch (9th most), and 1 touchdown for a 117 QB Rating (14th worst).
When we talk about risk-taking cornerbacks, guys like Marcus Peters or Janoris Jenkins, we understand they’re going to give up some plays. Both of those players have a history of ball production that allows them to be forgiven for missteps. Mills does not. In 36 career games and 22 starts, Mills has three interceptions. He has zero this year. In fact, can you remember a time this year when he jumped a route and just failed to finish? He hasn’t been close.
The downside of being an aggressive without the ball production to justify it, is that teams are unafraid to attack you. Every week, and this is blatantly obvious now, teams are ensuring their game-plan includes going after Mills with at least one double move. Outside of Julio Jones controversial no-catch in Week 1 where he was dusted anyway, when has it failed? It certainly didn’t fail for the Minnesota Vikings.
I don’t need to throw in a dozen videos of Mills being abused by double moves, we all know that pain well. Moving on from that, a source of considerable consternation among Eagles fans is the idea that Schwartz’s defense doesn’t get tight to the receivers. This is true to an extent. But if the key to unlocking Mills’ potential is getting him closer to the line, he didn’t show it on Sunday.
Press, outside leverage, trail. Great route by Thielen who gets Mills to bite. Thielen working from a condensed split vs Mills was predictably a win for MIN. pic.twitter.com/FzCuMuxQZA— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 8, 2018
With two hook zones underneath in the middle of the field and a deep safety inside for support, Mills’
aggressive undisciplined style of play burns him again. So if you can’t press, play off, or get ball production, what value does he bring the defense?
Here is the most frustrating part ... one of the very few plays Mills did make on Sunday was followed up with inconceivably selfish extra curricular activity. One that nearly resulted in a penalty after a key red zone stop. A red zone stop that was necessary because Mills was burned for a 68-yard catch by Adam Thielen, the player to which Mills words are directed.
Inexcusable. There’s no other way to look at it. There’s nothing to bark about in this situation. Mills is not a rookie, he should know better and thankfully Fletcher Cox knew better.
What’s the solution? It’s simple. Start Rasul Douglas outside. Whether that happens on Thursday against the New York Giants or the following week to prepare him better, it needs to happen. We need to know what our cornerback situation of the future will look like and getting more tape on Douglas is part of the evaluation process that must happen. If it fails, then we have a better idea of what needs to be done in the off-season.
Barring a complete turnaround from Mills, if Schwartz doesn’t make a move then he’s just as much at fault for the lapses in coverage as Mills. Considering he’s under fire after allowing Kirk Cousins to go 30/37, 301 yards and a touchdown despite getting fantastic pressure, Schwartz may need this change more than we do.
Should the Eagles bench Jalen Mills?
This poll is closed