In the flurry of free-agent signings on Monday — most of them on the offensive side of the ball — the Patriots added a versatile veteran defensive back in Jalen Mills.
Mills is a 26-year-old out of LSU who has played five seasons in the NFL, all of them with the Eagles. He has five career interceptions while playing a variety of positions, including as a slot, and outside corner, as well as free safety. From his positional versatility to his swagger, here are five things you should know about the Patriots newest defensive back.
He’s super confident
Mills was a seventh-round pick out of LSU in 2016. (He fell in the draft in part because of some injury issues.) Despite the late selection, he showed up at his first training camp with green hair, which he had dyed a week or so beforehand. It earned him a variety of nicknames, including the “Green Goblin,” which he’s since embraced.
According to one report, Philadelphia’s former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said: “If you’re going to be wearing that green hair, you better be out here making plays.”
Mills was once asked by a reporter if he had ever felt insecure. “He thought for a moment, considered the question, and recalled a time in grade school,” wrote Zach Berman, who covers the Eagles for The Athletic.
Bill Belichick has always prized versatility, and players don’t get more versatile than Mills. According to ESPN, Mills is the only player in the NFL to play 50-plus snaps at seven different “pre-snap” positions in 2020: left and right outside linebacker, left and right wide cornerback, left and right slot corner, and free safety. It remains to be seen now that versatility will manifest itself in New England, but given Belichick’s track record, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do the same in New England, provided he can pick up the Patriots’ defensive scheme.
He has a surgical scar on his left arm to remind him of the Eagles’ win over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII
Mills spent some of Super Bowl LII going head-to-head with tight end Rob Gronkowski, and on a fourth-down play in the second quarter, he knocked a pass meant for Gronkowski away to give Philly the turnover on downs. But he landed directly on his hand as he hit the turf, and he sustained a torn tendon. He left the game briefly, but returned with an air cast and finished the game leading the Eagles with nine tackles and two pass breakups.
He ended up getting surgery, which left a sizable scar on his arm and wrist.
He’s open to change
Mills’ versatile nature extends to his digits. The defensive back moved from No. 21 to No. 31 last offseason as he emerged to become more of a hybrid corner/safety defender. It sounds like the position change sparked a new uniform number. “
The number change is just a new beginning,” Mills told reporters after the move was made. “One of the guys who always motivated me was a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James. You see Kobe went from 8 to 24, LeBron went from 6 to 23, and I think it’s just recreating myself, recreating that ‘Green Goblin,’ that monster. It’s a new position, it’s a new field, it’s going to be new energy.”
(For the record, last season in New England veteran safety Adrian Phillips had No. 21 and cornerback Jonathan Jones wore No. 31.)
He’s got his own YouTube channel
He seems to have throttled back a bit as of late, but Mills has produced an epic collection of videos that span the last few years and hit on a number of his interests, including his shoe collection, his workout and diet preferences, and a 2020 hype video specialized for Philly fans with a song called “Cheesesteak Special.” Between his YouTube channel, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, he’s carved out an active presence on social media. (He Tweeted shortly after news of his new deal broke.) We’ll see if that continues moving forward.
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Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.