Jalen Mills Up To Safety Challenge

Ed Kracz

Casinos everywhere are closed due to the persistent spread of COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped Jalen Mills from betting on himself.

The defensive back had options in free agency, options that would have allowed him to stay at his customary cornerback position, but it was the Eagles, in the early days of free agency, that he chose to sign a one-year deal and, by doing so, agreed to convert from cornerback to safety.

“As far as the market goes, and then just me as a player, I’ve always bet on myself,” said Mills on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“I always have, and I always will. Getting to play - I’m not saying a new position; it is in the NFL, but I played it in college - I think that’s just me betting on myself one more time all over again, and I’m up for the challenge.”

His decision to return to the Eagles wasn’t that difficult, and not just because he won’t have to die his hair a different color. Mills can stick with the green hair and keep his nickname, “Green Goblin.”

What he won’t do is keep the same number. Mills will switch from No. 31 to No. 21, previously worn by Ronald Darby, who signed with the Washington Redskins.

“The number change is just a new beginning,” said Mills. “One of the guys who always motivates me was Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. Kobe went from 8 to 24. LeBron from 6 to 23. It’s recreating myself, recreating that Green Goblin, that monster. It’s a new position. It’s a new feel. It’s going to be new energy.”

Remaining in Philly was easy, too, because it was there where he started at cornerback and won a Super Bowl as a rookie seventh-round pick from LSU in 2017.

“One of the reasons why I felt like I wanted to come back to the Eagles was just for the simple fact that it’s unfinished business in Philadelphia,” said Mills. “I felt this team has the chemistry and the DNA to win another Super Bowl. That’s always the main goal.”

It’s a goal that will have to be achieved without one of the Eagles’ secondary stalwarts for the previous six seasons – Malcolm Jenkins.

Mills is being counted on to assume some of the responsibility carried by Jenkins, who signed with the New Orleans Saints.

Mills and Jenkins have spent a lot of time texting since the two knew they would be on different sides this season, and, oh by the way, the Saints are scheduled to visit Lincoln Financial Field this season.

“That’s my big brother, always has been ever since I first stepped on the field with the Eagles from our last game until now,” said Mills. “We had a good conversation. As far as the shoes I’m going to have to fill, with the name Malcolm Jenkins, of course it’s going to be a task.

“There’s a standard set there from Jenk to Brian Dawkins, a tone-setter at the position in the city of Philadelphia, so I know for sure there’s going to be a standard that I have to rise up to. But I’m up for it.”

Mills isn’t sugar-coating the transition from cornerback to safety.

He understands the challenges that will be involved, and that it will take some time to adjust, even though he was moved to safety after his first two seasons at LSU because, he said, a younger player was struggling, and Mills knew the Tigers' defense.

“It’s different,” said Mills about moving to safety with the Eagles. “We do a lot with our front, and me talking to Malcolm just at corner … lot of different run fits that you have to know about. It’s a lot of stuff the D-line does. Anything can change at any given moment.”

One thing that should benefit Mills, even if there isn’t much of an offseason to prepare due to COVID-19, is that he is healthy.

Mills had missed a year from mid-2018 until Week Seven at Dallas last year.

“It was hard, man, not having a full offseason to where you can get your body in tip-top shape … and then going into my first NFL game after two or three practices, I was really almost playing catchup and off of pure energy and job that I was out there with my guys again,” said Mills.

“It was definitely a roller coaster. It’s good now.”