There is this pursuit of perfection that Jordan Mailata has, a relentless chase that drives him to be the best he can be – which is among the very best left tackles in the entire NFL. As Mailata prepared for practice on Thursday at the NovaCare Complex and Monday night's game against Washington, he reflected on the win in Houston a week earlier and, specifically, a couple of snaps during which he wasn't at his best that he is using as a teaching point to vault him to even more success.
This is what happens in the NFL: You aren't going to be perfect. And when you play left tackle and the game is on national television – as it was against the Texans – any misstep is magnified. In an otherwise fine performance, Mailata had two snaps he would love to have back and on both plays quarterback Jalen Hurts was hit.
Making mistakes is just not in Mailata's DNA. However, cornerback Steven Nelson blitzed off the edge early in the second quarter of the game and reached Hurts, forcing a fumble that the Texans recovered and then end Jerry Hughes had a quick get-off to win the edge and reach Hurts early in the third quarter.
Otherwise, Mailata was flawless. But those two plays gnawed at him ...
"Poor sets for me, unlike myself and the standard that Stout (Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland) holds. I've gotta protect my QB. It's as simple as that," Mailata said, taking the blame even though Head Coach Nick Sirianni did so at the team meeting and to the media. "He (Sirianni) explained it to us in the team meeting, but still, as an offensive lineman, I should still block the guy in front of me. It's not on Coach himself. I get paid to pass protect and run block and I didn't do my job on those two plays."
Mailata explained some technical reasons that he's working on this week – more push from his legs, better use of his hands – but the upshot is that what Mailata went through on those two plays is what every player experiences in the NFL: There are going to be bumps in the road. How a player handles those moments has an impact on his greatness.
And, make no mistake, Mailata has been outstanding at left tackle and is one of the reasons the Eagles are 8-0 with an offense that averages 28 points per game and is equally powerful in the air and on the ground.
But he's still a young guy in the league and in the game – drafted in 2018 having never played the sport, and not seeing his first action until the 2020 season, so Monday night will be his 37th NFL game – and the guys on the other sideline are getting paid, too.
"We have this next-play mentality, but it's really hard when you feel you let down the team, you let down the coaches, you let down the fans," Mailata said. "We know they love us and they want you to do the right thing. It was just hard for me to let go because I felt I let down the world. Once that 24-hour period passed, I had to focus on the set up, not the setback and how to prevent that from happening again.
"I've been very high-energy today. I can't wait to get back out there and work on the techniques. Obviously, you don't want to give up sacks. And to do it there, on prime time, it was pretty bad on my part and I hate seeing Jalen get hit. I just have to play to a higher standard and the standard we've been playing at all year."
How did his teammates react? With support, with understanding, with encouragement. This is a team that has a deep and trusting connection, and everyone expects those two plays to be nothing more than a blip for the offense.
The lesson for Mailata is there are times – and they have been and will be – when he will have to "take the L, and I don't like losing" both overall and individually. Mailata credited left guard Landon Dickerson for reining him in.
"I didn't want to talk to anybody. I was so upset," Mailata said. "I was telling myself, 'I've got to focus on the next play,' but still, I couldn't believe that just happened. It was really hard to move on. I went over, picked Jalen up and said, 'I'm so sorry, dude.' And I really was sorry and I got better and it didn't happen again, but it was just a terrible feeling."
This is how the great ones grow, right? They are going to make mistakes because everybody does in the NFL, but what separates the OK players from the great ones, as Mailata said, is "how do they deal with the adversity?"
The takeaway? Lesson learned. Another step toward being the player he wants to be.
"It humbled me," Mailata said. "I thought I was great at that (handling adversity quickly) until I gave up two sacks on Thursday. It let me know that I need to work on it and I'm doing that. It was, at the end, a great lesson and now I can't wait to get back out there and become a better player."