In a bit of a shocking move earlier this offseason, the Eagles signed Jalen Mills to a one-year contract extension through the 2020 campaign. The shocking factor was not the extension itself however, it was that it was announced that Mills would be switching positions and turn into a safety for Jim Schwartz's defense. The move was made to fill the gap that Malcolm Jenkins had left.
Mills is a team player and has faith in himself to not just fill Jenkins' spot on the field, but also the leadership role that the Eagles will need help with since they will have a bunch of new faces in the locker room.
The Eagles bringing in Will Parks might have made fans think twice about Mills' full-time move to safety, but I don't think Parks will take any snaps from Mills; they will both be on the field with free safety Rodney McLeod because of how the Eagles run their defense. Jim Schwartz loves to have three safeties and just two linebackers on the field, which is much different from the widely used three linebackers, two safeties alignment.
However, Mills' move doesn't mean that he will always be at the safety position deep in the secondary; he will be used exactly how Malcolm Jenkins was all over the field. He will be playing nickel and linebacker and sometimes right on the line of scrimmage -- anywhere that ball goes he will have to gravitate towards it. I think this will help prevent Mills from getting burnt by speedy wide receivers like fans are accustomed to seeing. This move will allow him to sit back and watch the play unfold to potentially become a ball hawk.
The safety position is not new to Mills, as he did play it in college (as well as last season for one game against the New England Patriots). It was just one snap, but they also moved him all around from left corner to the slot to even being on the line of scrimmage with the defensive line. Down below is a breakdown of that game and what resulted in the team deciding to move Mills to safety full-time.
Obviously the team ended up losing that game, but it was the best the defense played all season. The main thing about that video is you think of all that moving around Jenkins did, so the Eagles were testing out how Mills may fill his shoes if Jenkins were to ever leave. Well, that became a reality this offseason. The team believes that Mills can be just as versatile, and instead of paying Jenkins close to $13 Million, they secured Mills for close to $5 Million. Schwartz has always shown that he trusts Mills, and this is the biggest sign of trust you will ever see from a defensive coordinator in one of his player. It is still a risk, but I hope for Schwartz's case this plan is a successful one.
So whether you're on the Mills-to-safety bandwagon or not, there is no doubt Mills deserves this chance to prove himself. Fueled with his determination and aggressive playstyle, it may not even feel like the Birds have lost Jenkins if the best-case scenario plays out. Jenkins' departure is leaving some big shoes to fill, but if there's anyone who will try their hardest to fit into them, it's Mills.