BEREA, Ohio – Jordan Mailata is on a mission. He's jogging across the practice fields at the Cleveland Browns' practice facility, yelling out to Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.
"Myles! Myles! I need to talk to you, Myles!"
Once Mailata reaches Garrett, the two, along with Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, talk for a good 30 minutes, exchanging technique ideas, laughing, making sure to show friendship and respect.
Mailata, the Eagles' emerging left tackle, engaged with Garrett, who in 2021 ranked third in the NFL with 16 quarterback sacks, two times in Friday's joint practice and, according to Mailata, split the reps. That's not the point, the wins on the reps. The point is that Mailata has a thirst for working on his game, one that has made enormous gains since he first stepped on the Eagles' practice field in the spring of 2018, only weeks after Philadelphia traded up in the seventh round of the NFL Draft to select him.
It was an ambitious fling then; now, it appears to be one of the Eagles' greatest draft moves. Mailata is one of the NFL's rising left tackles, a combination of size, strength, incredible athletic ability, and a willingness to absorb everything Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland is teaching.
And he's not even close to being satisfied.
"I've always said this, that I stay where my feet are. My focus is on what is right here in front of me and improving my game every day," Mailata said. "I sound like a broken record, but that's how I approach my job. We focus on the details every day. Hand placement, my feet. I try to take away every option my opponent could possibly have and to do that, I have to come to work every day prepared and detailed in my approach.
"It has been such an incredible process to reach this point. I'm continuing to do all the little things the right way, just as Stout tells us to do."
That's why joint practices like the two the Eagles had this week with Cleveland and why next week's work against the Miami Dolphins are so beneficial. The practices have the intensity of a gameday experience, but the sessions are scripted in a controlled environment. With a heavy emphasis on fundamentals – each day, Stoutland has his offensive linemen go through the same dance steps – the practices include long periods with one-on-one reps against opposing linemen and "team" periods that are live until the referees blow the whistle.
"This is great work," Mailata said. "After so many weeks of practicing against each other, we're now able to see something different and we have to adjust to something new, on the fly, like it's in a real game. You have to bring your best because you know you're playing against a quality player who is looking to make a name for himself, who has been in this league for some time."
What's next for Mailata, who last season signed a contract extension through the 2025 season? He is next in line for success at the left tackle position, following Tra Thomas and then Jason Peters. It is remarkable to think at one of the game's most important positions that the Eagles have had such a run. Thomas entered the league in 1998 and became an Eagles Hall of Famer through 2008 and then Peters was acquired in a trade and became a future Pro Football Hall of Famer and then along came Mailata, the longest of the long shots who had never played the game of football until he pursued a dream to leave Australia and come to the United States.
And here he is.
"I'm never going to change my approach because that's what I've been taught to do, to get better every day whether I'm conditioning, or in the classroom, or working out here on the field," he said. "Just get a little bit better. That's my goal every day."
Mailata won't talk about whether he's "ready for the regular season now" because, of course, that defies his "right here, right now" approach. The Eagles feel like their offensive line will be a strength of the team, but to make that happen, they have to work in a coordinated manner every step, every day, until the regular season begins in September.
"Great group of guys. We love each other and we love working together for the same purpose," Mailata said. "We are a unit and every piece has to fit together."
Practice is long over. The buses are ready to pull out and return the Eagles to their Cleveland hotel. Mailata says goodbye to Garrett.
"We will play against each other someday and it will be a battle because he's a great player," Mailata said. "I want to learn from every part of the experience. Keep learning and keep improving. I have a long way to go, a lot to learn. I'll never stop learning how to make myself better in this game."