PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- The 2020 season was a rough one for the Philadelphia Eagles, finishing 4-11-1, the worst record for the franchise since 2012. The on-field performance has led to significant changes already this offseason, with the team moving on from head coach Doug Pederson and trading former franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.
The move to trade Wentz, before his contract extension had even kicked in, was one that would have seemed surprising three years ago. Nonetheless, it's a move that safety Jalen Mills thinks was the right one for the team.
"Carson was saying that he wanted to be traded, so it happened. You're seeing that happen more frequently with guys around the league the past two or three years. Teams are seeing that guys want to be in a certain spot, and they're trading them. With that being said, it's in any team scenario or team function," Mills said in an interview with CBS Local's Ryan Mayer. "We can go outside of football in any business area. You're working virtually now, but you have a team that you work with. And if somebody in your team was to say, 'I don't think I want to be here,' what would your boss do? So, I think that was the right move. You don't want people in places that they don't want to be. I was taught that at a young age. You don't want to be somewhere where nobody wants you or if you don't want to be somewhere, exclude yourself from that situation. So I think that was the right move for the team."
Wentz's struggles and the ensuing quarterback controversy weren't the only causes of the Eagles struggles, however. As Mills points out, the pandemic forced a very different offseason for all teams, and combined with an offensive line that suffered injuries to key starters across the board, it made for a tough year.
"I don't like to make excuses. That said, the offensive line was very beat up this year. I don't care who you are, you saw it in the Super Bowl with Patrick Mahomes. You don't have those guys, they're your guys for a reason, protecting your quarterback, if you don't have them, you don't have enough time to throw the ball. You're not going to be able to make the right throws and accurate throws. And outside of that, it starts with the offseason," Mills said. "It was virtual, you have free agents coming in, rookies coming in, and you need to have that chemistry. You need to know where guys are going to be in certain spots. Guys need to learn where they need to be in certain times and certain spots on offense, defense and special teams. I think those were the two biggest things."
For the 26-year-old Mills, he's now entering free agency for the second time in his young career. Coming off a season in which he moved to a new position at safety and then back to his old one at corner, Mills feels his versatility is a strength for him entering the market.
"This is no disrespect to anybody, but how many strong safeties in the league in the middle of a game can go play corner and stick these top receivers?" Mills asked. "At the end of the day, I did play corner my first four years, but I'm technically a safety now, so that's what I'm playing a majority of the game."
Mills credits former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins with helping him continue to learn and improve throughout his time in Philly and even after Jenkins departed for New Orleans this past season.
"I take a lot from Jenk," Mills said. "When he was with the Eagles, I had times where I would text him saying, 'Hey bro, we have to be in the building at 7, can we do a film session at 6? I want to learn how you watch film,'" Mills said. "I always asked him questions, even throughout this year. That's my guy, he always is willing to help me, and I respect that from him."
Part of the wisdom that Mills has taken in from Jenkins is in relation to his diet. Heading into this offseason, Mills says that he has become a pescatarian, meaning he doesn't eat meat but does eat fish. He says both Jenkins and former LSU and Eagles teammate Duke Riley laid out the benefits they had found in not eating meat, and Mills has seen those for himself.
"I have so much more energy, which is crazy, because I'm a high-energy guy by myself already," Mills said. "I like to take a lot of naps too throughout the day, that's something that I took from college. Feel a lot better a lot cleaner for sure."
That energy has been channeled towards his training, which he says has focused on staying prepared for however a team wants to use him going forward. It's unclear whether the Eagles will be able to re-sign him, as the team remains a significant amount over the cap as of this writing. But, regardless of whether he is back in Philly or not, Mills is just looking for a team that will allow him to show his multifaceted skillset.
"A team to utilize me. I'm a guy who can do everything. I can cover, tackle, blitz, disguise. I can step up on the d-line, do a stunt, and drop back in coverage. I just want a team to utilize me, because I'm here to try to win a Super Bowl," Mills said. "I had that feeling my second year in the league, and regardless of whatever team I'm going to, that's my mindset when I come into the building."
Free agency officially begins March 17 at 4 p.m. ET with a "legal tampering period" beginning a few days before. Until then, Mills is continuing to enjoy his time back in his home state of Texas, walking his dogs, working on his clothing brand 'The Mood Is Set' and gaming when he's not training.
You can check out the full interview with Jalen above covering everything on and off the field.
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