By now you know that Jalen Mills is the fall guy for the entirety of the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive struggles.

And when you try to analyze his performances in a fair way or even just approach any Mills-related hot take with a shred of critical thinking or non-bias, you get the following response:

“Nah bro, Jalen Mills sux.”

This isn’t to say I’m a Jalen Mills apologist, because I’m not. He hasn’t been very good this season.

But nobody on this defense is lighting the world on fire, which I think most Eagles fans are smart enough to recognize. Jim Schwartz hasn’t been drawing up the best schemes or using his personnel in the best possible way. You’ve got Rodney McLeod on the shelf with a rookie cornerback playing safety for the first time his career. Tim Jernigan and Vinny Curry and Patrick Robinson and Beau Allen appeared to be bigger losses than we thought.

Still, we generally channel all of our distrust into one singular focus, which is Jalen Mills, and I can’t say it’s undeserved. When you get beat for a 68-yard completion, it looks bad. It looks worse than Ronald Darby missing a tackle and allowing a three-yard gain to become an eight-yard gain. A pass interference penalty on a 30-yard attempt looks worse than a 15-yard roughing the passer flag.

I’ve always kind of leaned on that assertion when evaluating Mills, the idea that his mistakes are often MORE DAMAGING than the mistakes of others. It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily committing a HIGHER VOLUME of mistakes, but they stick out in a way that is much more noticeable than, say, when a defensive end fails to seal the corner or when an outside linebacker blitzes and simply doesn’t reach the quarterback.

All of that said, I figured the best way to approach this video study on a short week would be to lay out literally every single play where Mills was targeted or made a tackle in the Minnesota loss, with the goal of adding context to his performance instead of just saying:

“Nah bro, Jalen Mills sux.”

Play 1

This was an seven yard gain on 2nd and 5 during the Vikings’ opening drive.

The Eagles are in a form of cover 3 here with a single high safety, and both Mills and Darby are 10 yards off their receivers as Kirk Cousins throws a really nice flat pass to allow Stefon Diggs to pick up a first down with a burst forward in space.

You also see Avonte Maddox creeping up there in what looks like a free safety blitz.

This is pretty typical for a cover 3 look, with Mills, Darby, and the high safety each responsible for one third of the field. Only one corner is going to get safety help over the top if they get beat.

Play 2

This was on the same drive, a little pre-snap motion and a swing pass to try to get Diggs into space again.

Mills and Sidney Jones both do a pretty good job here of holding their ground as Malcolm Jenkins narrows the angle, but Diggs has the speed to turn this into a five yard gain.

Nothing really to take away from this one. Mills has always been a pretty good tackler in these kinds of situations.

Play 3

Final play of the Vikings’ opening drive.

Good pass break up here by Mills, but there’s a bit of a stumble by Roc Thomas that allows him to step in and bat the ball down.

Thing is, Mills is only 3-4 yards off Thomas at the line of scrimmage, playing the first down line on a 3rd and short. He gets his hands up and makes Thomas at least a little bit uncomfortable here.

One issue with Mills is that he rarely does anything disruptive at the line because he’s always playing soft coverage. I don’t know if that’s by design or what, but when you watch his film, he’s so much better in red zone and short yardage situations because the field shrinks and, well, he can’t get beat over the top. That leads me to believe that Mills has the skill set and physical tools to be a slot corner, yet he’s always giving cushion when the offense has room to work downfield.

If you drafted Sidney Jones to play on the outside, maybe… play him on the outside?

Play 4

I don’t have the all-22 film here because it’s only Tuesday (sorry), so I can’t see the safety, but it looks like another single-high scheme. Presumably the safety is focused on the strong side of the field with Adam Thielen, Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph.

So the Vikings just hit Laquon Treadwall on a short hitch and Mills closes the gap quickly to make the tackle. This preceded the Michael Bennett penalty, which then resulted in Kirk Cousins hitting Thielen in the corner for the touchdown (Darby was in coverage on that play).

Play 5

Here’s the big 68-yard gain.

Again they’re playing single-high safety with Avonte Maddox over the top. The Eagles blitz Nigel Bradham and Malcolm Jenkins and Cousins quickly gets rid of the ball to hit Thielen, who is 1v1 with Mills.

Honestly, it’s a really nice throw. Fletcher Cox is collapsing the pocket and Cousins knows he’s going to take a hit, but puts that ball right where it needs to be. Latavius Murray also lays a nice block on Jenkins to protect Cousins’ blind side.

So give Minnesota credit for executing here.

Mills, for whatever reason, is again 10 yards off his guy at the line of scrimmage. Darby and Jones are two yards off and they make contact with their receivers in an effort to be disruptive.

Photo evidence as the play develops:

No gap, no gap, and a really big gap.

Cousins literally has less than three seconds to get rid of this ball, and two of his guys have defenders up their butts while Mills is still way off Thielen. He doesn’t get totally waxed by the double move, but he’s still not close enough to make a play on the ball, Maddox misses a tackle, and Mills has to recover to save a touchdown.

Just ugly stuff all around. I really do not know why Mills is playing with a 10 yard cushion while two other corners are five yards off the line. I’d be interested in hearing him or Jim Schwartz explain whether this is scheme related or just incorrect positioning and/or technique.

Play 6

Remember how I said earlier that Mills was pretty good in short yardage and red zone situations? That’s been his strength this year, and he followed up the Thielen play by batting down the Vikings’ 2nd and goal pass on the same drive.

Pretty good rush by Brandon Graham on this play. Treadwell thinks Mills interferes with him, but that looks like pretty good timing to me.

Play 7

Not a big fan of the play call, but they went right at Mills again on 3rd and goal and tried to pick Sidney Jones. The pass is way too shallow, almost like an Andy Reid play call from back in the day.

Still, nice job by Jalen to read that, close the gap, and make a play on the ball. He had three of the Eagles’ four pass break-ups in this game.

Of course, this was the play where he got in Thielen’s face afterward then had to be directed off the field by Fletcher Cox, and rightfully so,

Again, it’s optics here. It doesn’t LOOK GOOD when you give up a 68 yard pass, make up for it in the red zone with a pair of PBUs, then begin jawing with the guy who originally roasted you. Jalen doesn’t do himself any favors with the fan base and media when he does that stuff, which adds to the negative feelings already incubating inside Philly brains.

But I think the overwhelming thing here is that he certainly is doing some good things out there. He’s been pretty solid on plays where he can be physical in goal line and short yardage situations. It makes me wonder why he isn’t up on the line or being disruptive early in routes, especially since he seems to become energized by contact and conflict. I also don’t think Jim Schwartz has been very inspirational in the way he deploys these guys, and the fact that you have a rookie corner playing safety is at least disconcerting, if not straight-up ridiculous.

People might read this and think I’m some Jalen Mills devotee, but the honest truth is that I’m just trying to look at the situation fairly instead of blurting out “nah bro, Jalen Mills sux.”