The rookie season for one of the league's most fascinating draft picks is over as tackle Jordan Mailata was placed on Injured Reserve. He did not practice on Thursday due to a back injury.
To take Mailata's spot on the active roster, the Eagles promoted linebacker B.J. Bello from the practice squad. Guard Kaleb Johnson replaces Bello on the practice squad.
The 24-year-old Bello originally joined the NFL as a rookie free agent of the Browns in 2017. He played in every game and finished the year with seven special teams tackles, good for third on the Browns. At 6-3, 229 pounds, Bello transferred from Illinois to Illinois State and recorded 67 tackles, six sacks, and two forced fumbles in 12 games (11 starts) in 2016. Bello was released by the Browns during the final roster cutdown this season.
Johnson, a product of Rutgers, has spent time with six teams, most recently the Minnesota Vikings this past Training Camp and preseason.
As for Mailata, the team's seventh-round pick had never played a down of organized football before being chosen by the team. Graham Foley wrote this profile of Mailata after he made the active roster:
When Jordan Mailata began playing with the Eagles this spring, he said he knew “peanuts” about the sport of football.
The 6-8, 346-pound Australian rugby player was drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round (241st overall) of the 2018 draft, his physical qualities making up for the fact he had never played a down of football in his life.
After his fourth preseason game, Mailata said his knowledge of the game has improved to about a “quarter bag” of peanuts, growing more and more each day. Now, he’s to fill up that bag with plenty more.
When the Eagles announced their 53-man roster Saturday afternoon, Mailata, one of the great longshot stories of the 2018 season, was listed as one of the team’s 10 offensive linemen. In a few months, the outgoing, 21-year old tackle went from knowing nothing about the sport he was trying to play professionally, to making the roster of the NFL’s defending champions.
If he keeps it up, Mailata is sure to have a full bag of peanuts soon.
"When I sit here and reflect on my journey to the NFL and all the roadblocks that were there when I made the decision to come to America and try to pursue a career in the NFL, there was a lot of adversity and people doubting," Mailata said. "And when I think about that, it makes make me realize and appreciate that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it.
"This is still the start of everything and I still know where I need to get going," he added. "People think that I made it. No. Like I said, I am happy with where I’m at, but I still want to get better every day, and when I sit here and think about how far I’ve come, I’m happy with all the progress that I’ve made but I can’t settle for it."
Mailata impressed on the practice field and in the preseason. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 9, Mailata's first-ever football game, he struggled early, allowing a sack on his third play. But he recovered quickly and has played remarkably well, turning heads around the NFL.
"My job was to try to make it hard for the coaches and I gave it everything I’ve got," Mailata said after the fourth preseason game. "I still have a lot to work on and they understand that too, so I think we’re on the same page, but we’ll see what happens."
One of the biggest adjustments for Mailata has been getting into "football shape." Mailata said he was gassed after his first preseason game. After playing three quarters in the fourth game, he felt stronger, even though offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland told him he should be "crawling off the field" with no energy.
"I’d like to say athleticism had a hand in it,” said Mailata on how he’s been able to improve so quickly. “But then again, it’s the repetitions ... Coach (Stoutland) always emphasizes, you need to get 10,000 kicks, that’s the goal. I think I’m only on like 500 to be honest, so I’ve got a long way to go."
For someone learning football at the offensive tackle position, there may not be a better place to be for Mailata than Philadelphia. Just at the tackle position, Mailata is learning from All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson as well as Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who held down the left tackle position last season after Peters went down.
Mailata said knowing the talent on the Eagles' offensive line just made him want to work harder and learn while not adding any pressure.
"It’s like little kids going to Disneyland," Mailata said. "It really is. I am really lucky. I have a future Hall of Famer and Pro Bowl tackles and they’ve helped me a lot and the tips they give me are really invaluable, so I'm really lucky and blessed to have the teammates I do. I look up to them like older brothers."
Mailata also has a special relationship with Stoutland. Without any background in football, Mailata has relied upon Stoutland to teach him all of the fundamentals at the tackle position. It has given him a "clean slate" with no bad habits holding him back.
Trusting Stoutland has been crucial. So, it only made sense for Mailata to come up with the slogan "In Stout We Trust" for the offensive line.
"I love him," Mailata said. "He’s honestly the best coach I’ve ever had. If you don’t know him, you’re missing out. He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s something else and he’s got something about him, he has this juice, that makes me want to learn more from him because he’s so knowledgeable."
Mailata earned his spot on the roster. The dedication it took to learn a playbook while simultaneously learning the fundamentals of a brand-new sport is a challenge that Mailata has impressively attacked "one day at a time" over a grueling Training Camp. But the fortune of playing with such impressive linemen and under an experienced and accomplished coach is not lost on Mailata.
"How lucky? When they called me (to tell me I was drafted), I cried," Mailata said. "I’m bloody, extremely lucky. I know and understand where I am and the expectations they hold me to, so I just try to keep myself in check and, like I said, narrow it down to one thing every day and try to get better."
Now that he has made the 53-man roster, Mailata said there is a "massively" large change in his mindset. He has to be ready to play at any time in a real, consequential football game for the league's defending champions. Mailata believes it is important to keep a "growth mindset," one that will allow him to continue to improve and be ready at a moment's notice to step in for his first regular-season game.
“I have checked a lot of boxes and for me, it’s adopting that mentality of not settling,” Mailata said. “I’m taking every day as it is and every week as it is. I’m not looking too far ahead. I don’t have any pre-planned goals or anything. I’m taking it as it is. That’s my goal, to get better every day and to focus on where I need to get to and how I am going to get there.”