Some Eagles fans simply don't know decent cornerback play when they see it. Case in point, there are still people who don't realize Asante Samuel was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for most of his four-year stint with the club, from 2008 to 2011.
No, Jalen Mills was not one of the best cornerbacks in the league last season. Yes, it is concerning he enters this season as the Eagles' No. 1 corner. But on the topic of decent corners, Mills did author a respectable rookie campaign -- especially for a seventh-round draft pick -- yet some folks want to act like he was the second coming of Bradley Fletcher.
The statistic I've often cited is opponents' passer rating against Mills in coverage, where he finished tied for 53rd out of 79 qualifying cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. That's not bad, all things considered -- better than teammates Nolan Carroll (58th) and Leodis McKelvin (75th), anyway.
The rankings are also lacking some context, in large part because 70 of the players on that list were in the NFL prior to last season. Perhaps we would get a clearer picture of Mills' rookie year if his performance were stacked up against other rookies.
Reader Jarrid Frye asked how Mills compared to the draft class of 2016. It's a good question, so we decided to take a look. These are all of the cornerbacks who took at least 50 percent of the defensive snaps, which right away excludes a lot of players who couldn't even get on the field. Also note where each player was drafted.
- Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars (fifth overall) – 76.6 opponents' passer rating
28. James Bradberry, Panthers (62nd) – 85.5
39. Artie Burns, Steelers (25th) – 91.2
44. Daryl Worley, Panthers (77th) – 91.7
48. Tavon Young, Ravens (104th) – 95.1
51. Eli Apple, Giants (10th) – 97.2
t53. Jalen Mills, Eagles (233rd) – 97.7
64. Vernon Hargreaves, Buccaneers (11th) – 102.7
70. Anthony Brown, Cowboys (189th) – 105.3
Everybody ahead of Mills was taken at least 100 picks earlier, half of them going in the first round. Even then, only Ramsey and Bradberry fared considerably better. And if we expand the list to corners who played 25 percent of the snaps, of the four who added to the mix, only Rashard Robinson for the 49ers -- 133rd overall -- is ahead of Mills.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz cautioned this week that we cannot takes Mills' development for granted. At the same time, the teams that drafted these corners are hoping, if not expecting improvement. Why should Mills be any different?
Obviously, merely looking at passer ratings is an overly simplistic way of judging cornerback play as well, but it gives us a picture. Ignoring his peers, Mills limited receivers to 9.3 yards per pass attempt faced and surrendered just one touchdown. He was hardly getting torched up and down the field.
Mills' development is not assured, but if it continues, his rookie season suggests he could become a perfectly capable cornerback. He may never be Asante Samuel, but he certainly isn't Bradley Fletcher, either.