The oft-mentioned second-year jump is not just relevant for players who only recently entered the NFL, but also for veterans who have moved from one team to another. Among those is Jalen Mills, who joined the New England Patriots as a free agent last offseason and is now preparing for his second year with the club.
So far, the 28-year-old appears to be quite happy with his development. Sitting down with Patriots.com, he spoke, among other topics, about his Year 2 experience in Foxborough.
“Meetings have been great, practice has been great. I’m just feeling more comfortable within the scheme,” Mills said.
What exactly has changed for him, though?
“I think just really learning the verbiage,” he replied. “Being somewhere for five years and then come here, it’s a different verbiage, different coverages. Knowing which spots guys are going to be in in certain situations, and just going out there and playing fast.”
A seventh-round selection in the 2016 draft, Mills spent the first five seasons of his professional career with the Philadelphia Eagles. After 67 games and one Super Bowl win, he left the team to join the Patriots on a four-year, $24 million contract last March.
Mills ended up earning the starting outside cornerback job opposite Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson, and was a key member of New England’s secondary throughout his first campaign with the team. In total, he was on the field for 80.4 percent of defensive snaps, while showing some clear improvement as the year went on.
Heading into 2022, Mills again projects to play a prominent role for the Patriots — especially considering that Jackson was signed by the Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent.
With the former CB1 gone, the team’s secondary as a whole will naturally look different. Thus far, however, Mills likes what he has seen from the talent in the post-Jackson cornerback room.
“Lot of guys who want to go out there and compete,” he said. “That’s what you want at the end of the day. Guys who want to go out there and compete, regardless of what happens in the first play, the next play is the same fire, the same intensity. Want to go out there and win.”