Philadelphia Eagles News

Jalen Mills Poised To Lead Cornerback Group Against Tyreek Hill, Chiefs

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For all that was made before the season about the lack of depth at the cornerback group, the Eagles held their own against the Redskins.

They limited quarterback Kirk Cousins to just 200 passing yards and hushed troublesome slot receiver Jamison Crowder to 14 yards on three catches. There's no escaping the impact Ronald Darby's injury has on the group but for now, the "next man up" approach rings louder than ever. The looming matchup on Sunday features Chiefs' blinding speedster Tyreek Hill.

"These guys are ready. They're prepared today in case they have to step into a role," said safety and team captain Malcolm Jenkins. "They're one play, one injury away from either moving up or being in the game and I think they always prepare with that mindset, so we don't expect them to approach this game any different."

Example, Jalen Mills.

All of a sudden, Mills finds himself as the Eagles' No. 1 cornerback. Just one year ago, Mills was a seventh-round pick who was tossed into the rotation at corner after an injury to Leodis McKelvin in the season opener. Now he's leading a group in which he's the only player with a year's worth of experience in the team's defense at cornerback.

"A lot of people didn't think we were going to go in there and beat Washington. We stayed inside this locker room and worked hard. Once you win, it's like 'OK' you felt good but then again it's on to the next one."

Mills recorded his first NFL interception when he picked Cousins off on a pass intended for Crowder at the goal line. His job will be to coach a player in a very similar situation that he was in last year. Third-round rookie Rasul Douglas may be thrown into the thick of it on Sunday. A Week 1 inactive, Douglas might see his first NFL action at Arrowhead Stadium, one of the league's toughest places to play.

"He's put himself in a good position," said head coach Doug Pederson of Douglas. "I thought he came out of camp better. He improved from OTAs into Training Camp, he improved. So (I've) got a lot of confidence in him, if that's the direction we go on defense."

After practices, Douglas has been getting coached up by Eagles great Brian Dawkins. The youngster's technique and confidence level are improving and watching from the sideline during Sunday's win may end up being more of a plus for Douglas.

"You can see the tempo of a real game," Douglas said. "I've seen preseason but I only played against Miami starters a little bit, not everyone else. So definitely get to see how a real game looks."

Tough assignments and opportunities will arise at any moment and the corners will look to take advantage of them.

"You just have to embrace whatever they put in front of you and make the best of it," said safety-turned-cornerback Jaylen Watkins. "And this one is an opportunity for me and to help the team. So you can't complain with that when you can help your team and help yourself in this league."

Joining Watkins, Mills, Douglas, and recently acquired Dexter McDougle at cornerback is Patrick Robinson. Of all the growing parts in the Eagles' secondary, Robinson was the only player to match up against Hill during his time last season in Indianapolis. He got firsthand experience what the group is up against.

"He's obviously blazing fast. He's one of those guys you can't let him just get free lanes down the field. You've got to stay tight on him because if you give him a yard, he'll take the whole field," Robinson said. "So you definitely have to be very disciplined. The offense is going to try and get him the ball in different ways – reverses, jet sweeps, screens, and stuff like that. You have to be very disciplined with your eyes."

It will take a unison effort to man up with Hill. Above all, the cornerbacks must bring that same effort that they displayed against Washington.

"You have to trust yourself regardless. You know those guys, they go out there they get paid to catch the ball. If they catch the ball, good one. One for the bad guys," Mills shrugged off. "But at the end of the day when you get up, you've got to compete every play."

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