Good morning. The Eagles take the field at 1 p.m. today for their first practice session leading up to Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans. Doug Pederson has a 10:30 a.m. news conference. Carson Wentz takes the lectern at 11:45 a.m.

This is the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday for the rest of the season. If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

Eagles defensive back Jalen Mills and defensive back Malcolm Jenkins celebrate a stop against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, September 23, 2018 in Philadelphia.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles defensive back Jalen Mills and defensive back Malcolm Jenkins celebrate a stop against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, September 23, 2018 in Philadelphia.

Jalen Mills “has actually been playing extremely well,” Doug Pederson says

Jalen Mills has been the subject of fan scrutiny during the past two weeks, but inside the NovaCare Complex, the Eagles are pleased with Mills. Coach Doug Pederson said Mills "has actually been playing extremely well," and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz liked the way Mills rebounded from a poor showing in Week 2. Mills was charged with two pass interferences against the Colts. He also had five tackles and two pass breakups while playing tight coverage.

“I thought Jalen had a really good bounce-back game,” Schwartz said. “He tackled really well. He battled. He made a couple plays in the red zone that saved our butt a couple times. He played with great technique. I thought that was the biggest difference this week as opposed to last week. Played with good technique, played with a lot of the confidence, and I thought he was back on track.”

Schwartz said on Mills' first pass interference, the cornerback did a "good job" finding the ball and playing the ball. However, Mills made hand contact. On the second pass interference, Mills hooked the receiver. He was playing aggressively after he was in coverage on a big play by DeSean Jackson one week earlier.

Cornerback is a position that's going to be subject to criticism. When a cornerback is beat, it's more obvious for all to see than other positions. But the Eagles have confidence in Mills, watching him develop into a key starter on their Super Bowl defense. He might not be a Pro Bowler, but he's proven to be a starting-level cornerback in the NFL — and he's trying to show he can be more. Mills has made his share of plays, and the Eagles coaches don't appear to be waffling in their opinion of him.

"He's always in position," Pederson said. "Seems like he's right there to make the play. He's physical, he's tough, he can come up and make tackles. He's been solid quite honestly at the corner position. Gives you stability on both sides with he and [Ronald] Darby. So, again, a young player that's going to continue with more snaps just getting better and better and he's going to understand the game a little bit more, and his technique. Really provide a spark defensively from time to time with pass breakups."

Why Joshua Perkins?

After missing a good chunk of the preseason with a concussion, Joshua Perkins was probably the least-heralded player on the 53-man roster to start the season. The Eagles needed three tight ends, and after Richard Rodgers' injury, they turned to Perkins. But Perkins has quickly found a role in the offense, playing 38 percent of the offensive snaps and even starting last week's game. Perkins, who played eight games with Atlanta in 2016, has five catches for 67 yards. His playing time will likely dip when Alshon Jeffery returns and the Eagles play fewer three-tight end sets, but he's a tight end/wide receiver hybrid who could still find his way into the game plan.

"We knew from evaluation when he was in Atlanta he was a good special teams player there," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "He had good toughness. He's a big body who can really can run, so he can stretch the field for his size. He's done a nice job except missed a lot of time, but he's picked it up well and made some good plays for us the last few weeks."

In Tennessee…

The Titans signed seven-year veteran quarterback Austin Davis on Tuesday. This is not a transaction to dismiss, because the Eagles' opponent this weekend has quarterback issues. Starter Marcus Mariota suffered an elbow injury Week 1 and has not started the past two games. Backup Blaine Gabbert left the Week 3 game with a concussion, though, and Mariota entered in relief despite the injury that left him struggling to grip the football. He went 12 of 18 for 100 yards. Gabbert remains in the concussion protocol.

Mariota might be healthy enough to start against the Eagles on Sunday, but the status of the quarterbacks bears watching this week.

Eagles’ Joshua Perkins catches a pass during the Philadelphia Eagles training camp at the NovaCare complex in Philadelphia, PA on July 31, 2018. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles’ Joshua Perkins catches a pass during the Philadelphia Eagles training camp at the NovaCare complex in Philadelphia, PA on July 31, 2018. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

The 2017 Eagles offense reached its peak after Sproles was lost for the year and Pederson consistently used a three-back rotation of Blount-Ajayi-Clement. Four games into 2018, why would the Eagles want to reinsert Sproles into the rotation? He's obviously injury prone at this point in his career, and it would be foolish to think he's going to last the season (although, of course, I hope he does). Why not go with a rotation of Ajayi-Clement-Smallwood (or Clement-Smallwood-Adams when Ajayi's not available), and use Sproles strictly as a return specialist and occasional change-up receiver? – Dave P., via email

Interesting question. I don't think correlation implies causation with last year's success — the offense didn't improve because Darren Sproles was injured. The answer to why they use Sproles is because he's a good player, although he might be better viewed as a role player. I think the Eagles can find a valuable role for Sproles, whose versatility and ability in space is hard to find. Plus, he's the best blocking running back on the team. I don't even know if there's a close second. That's valuable on third downs.

But I also don't think the Eagles should use him like they did in Week 1. He can be a return specialist and an offensive threat in certain packages, but I'd rely on Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement for the majority of the running back snaps. It's also not a given that Sproles will get injured this season. Last season was a freak injury. A hamstring injury this month in practice is not good, but it's also not an indication that Sproles won't last the season. The Eagles are a better offense with Sproles involved. I just don't think it should come at the expense of Ajayi, which it did in the first half of Week 1.