Has Jalen Mills played in his final game for the Eagles?
The team announced Thursday that Mills has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will not be available to play in Sunday’s season finale against visiting Washington. It isn’t clear whether Mills has tested positive himself or has been exposed to someone who tested positive.
Mills, 26, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. He was a seventh-round draft choice in 2016 who moved from cornerback to safety this season, following the departure of Malcolm Jenkins. Mills has had to swing back to corner several times, including during last Sunday’s loss at Dallas, when rookie Michael Jacquet was benched.
Historically, Mills has been prone to bite on double moves at corner, and his tackling has been up-and-down at safety, but he seems to be one of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s favorite players. Mills plays with the brash confidence and the bounce-back ability that Schwartz values. Mills also thoroughly knows the ins and outs of the scheme.
“I think it’s just such a compliment to Jalen that he’s been such an unselfish player,” Schwartz said this week, talking about his having to move Mills around to stop the bleeding at Dallas. “He’s been making progress at safety, and for his career, it’s probably best that he just stay there, but when we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to move you to corner,’ he never even batted an eye. He’s gone out and he’s switched to the best receiver before, he’s gone out and just started playing right and left, challenges guys.”
Schwartz said Mills’ effectiveness after the switch “gave us a chance to get back in the game,” though the Eagles couldn’t seize it, with their offense being held scoreless in the second half.
Mills is playing this season on a one-year, $4 million contract.
Sixth-round rookie wide receiver Quez Watkins will play in only his sixth game this season if he takes the field against Washington, as expected. Watkins caught two passes for 57 yards at Dallas, surpassing his previous yardage total for the season — he entered the game with four catches for 43 yards.
Watkins began the season on injured reserve, and all of his catches have come in the last three weeks, with fellow rookie Jalen Hurts at quarterback. Should Watkins have gotten more of a look in the six games before the Eagles’ victory over New Orleans, when he was on the roster but didn’t see the field?
“How the cards are played, how they were dealt, I can’t complain,” Watkins said Thursday. “I can’t say I wish I would have done this, I wish I would have done that. But I know the opportunity’s in front of me now, so I’m gonna keep fighting.”
Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave didn’t play up to his or anyone else’s expectations this season after signing a three-year, $39 million deal in free agency. Hargrave has talked about his challenges switching from a read-and-react role in Pittsburgh to the Eagles’ attacking style. The team hasn’t fared as well as he’d hoped, either.
“It was just one a them years,” Hargrave said Thursday.