Maybe the best news out of Eagles training camp thus far is the play of the two starting corners, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills.
Winning the Super Bowl makes just about everything that happened en route off-limits for criticism, so the fact that the New England Patriots gained a Super Bowl-record 505 passing yards in their losing effort was noted, but not dwelled upon.
Still, if you were listing things that could stand to be better for the Eagles this season, pass defense would be No. 1. And, with Darby and Mills on the outside and Sidney Jones or De'Vante Bausby in the slot, it sure looks a lot better.
"They're both having outstanding camps," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Monday about Darby and Mills. "They're making plays on the ball, they're playing with confidence. Those are two important things for corners. I think that both of those guys really elevated their games."
Darby, 24, came to the Eagles last year in the middle of preseason, in a trade that sent Jordan Matthews to Buffalo. He was still figuring out Schwartz's defense when he suffered a dislocated ankle in the season opener at Washington. Darby missed the next eight games and was not the shutdown corner fans had hoped for when he returned.
"Last year when he came to us, he was just so far behind scheme-wise, and it seemed like he was always playing catch up," Schwartz said. "Whether it was trying to play catch up early in the season with the scheme, and then trying to play catch up with his injuries. He just never really got his feet sort of underneath him, so to speak. He's had an outstanding offseason. I'm not just talking about training camp, I'm talking about OTAs and phase one, phase two. He's in a different place than he was last year."
For Mills, "his biggest thing is that confidence, and his ability to play the ball," Schwartz said. "He's done both of those things, and he's continued to do both of those things."
Darby agreed that he has a better grasp of the defense. "I know where help's supposed to be, and things like that."
He said the main thing he needed to do to improve was "get healthier. Make sure I'm around. Missing two months is hard in the NFL, [then] getting back and trying to play."
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Mills, also 24, has been a big part of Schwartz's unit since arriving as a seventh-round pick in 2016. He improved a lot from Year 1 to Year 2, was NFC defensive player of the week after the Oct. 29 win over San Francisco, but Mills heads into Year 3 with many observers still doubting he has the speed to play outside against top receivers at a consistently high level.
Yet, nobody on the team more perfectly embodies Schwartz's tough, aggressive swagger than the neon-haired "Green Goblin."
Mills said his offseason was consumed with "just learning more football … . Year 3, it's not about the physical matchup now. It's all about the mental part of the game."
Mills said he enjoys playing across from Darby.
"He's a guy who's going to go out there and compete. We feed off each other. If he makes a play, he's looking at me across the field like, 'Hey, man, it's your turn now.' If I make a play, I'm looking at him."
Darby has a prominent tattoo of the Super Bowl LII logo on his left knee. He got it during OTAs, after an offseason in which he was rumored to be on the trading block. Darby said he heard the rumors, hoped they weren't true, but wouldn't let them deter him from the tattoo.
"I'm always going to be a part of the Super Bowl-winning team," he noted.
He said the tattoo is "one I cherish a lot. It's hard to come by a Super Bowl. Being a part of it, I know how hard it is. The last-minute wins we had, the fourth-down plays we needed to make, the turnovers – everything was in our favor. It's a difficult thing to do.
"You can't control nothing. As long as my iPad password works [for playbook access], I'm still a part of the team. I wasn't thinking about that — I was just preparing for this season coming up. I don't want to let my boys, my teammates, down, so I'm going to come in prepared."
Mills has noticed Darby's tat.
"That's dope. He's probably got the illest Super Bowl tattoo of anybody in the room," Mills said.
Mills has tattoos, but nothing yet from the Super Bowl. He said he's thinking of a spot on the outside of his left thumb, where he sports a surgical scar from the offseason.
"I think I might get it under this scar, since I hurt it in the Super Bowl," Mills said. "Second quarter, on [Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski], on that fourth-down fade ball, I ended up tearing a ligament in my thumb."
The play began with 11 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the first half, fourth and 5 from the Eagles' 35, and it was an incomplete pass. So, Mills tore a ligament in his thumb in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, yet he played the rest of the way and was the Eagles' leading tackler, with six solo and three assisted.
"It was the Super Bowl, man," Mills said. "I had 'em put a soft cast on it, went back in."