Jalen Mills is ‘definitely more confident’ entering his second season with the Patriots

The oft-mentioned second-year jump is not just relevant for players coming off their respective rookie campaigns; it also applies to veterans entering their second season in a team’s system. The New England Patriots have several candidates this year.

Among them is cornerback Jalen Mills, who arrived in New England via a four-year, $24 million contract last March. Mills played some solid football for the team in 2021, and he is feeling better heading into Year 2 as a Patriot.

“Definitely feeling more comfortable,” he told reporters on a conference call last week.

“OTAs, we’re always gearing up. But from Day 1 — from now to last year — just going over the plays, going over the installs. My mind isn’t wandering and I’m asking a hundred questions. Now I’m asking fifty questions instead of a hundred this year. But I’m definitely more confident within the scheme.”

A part of the Patriots’ free agency spending spree last offseason, Mills settled into the starting outside cornerback spot opposite eventual Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson in 2021. He was on the field for 16 of 17 regular season games in this capacity, but Coronavirus protocols prevented him from suiting up for New England’s playoff loss in Buffalo.

His absence was a tough blow given that he had played some solid football up until that point. Being on the field for 84.6 percent of defensive snaps during the regular season, Mills allowed 37 of 65 passes thrown his way to be completed.

The former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back did give up a team-high seven touchdowns without registering any interceptions, but he settled down over the second half of the regular season to end the year on a strong note. Unfortunately, him testing positive for Covid-19 put an early end to his season and forced him to end it as a spectator.

Nonetheless, his 2021 experience as a whole was a positive one.

“I think I really just got comfortable within the scheme,” Mills said. “Two totally different schemes from the scheme I was playing in before and then last year. Just getting comfortable within the scheme, getting comfortable with certain guys.

“Certain guys do different things. Certain guys make different checks and knowing pre-snap if I have [Adrian Phillips] next to me he’s going to do something different than [Kyle] Dugger or [Devin] McCourty. Or if I had [Dont’a] Hightower next to me he was going to make a different check than Kyle Van Noy. So, that was the biggest thing for me: just getting comfortable within the scheme.”

The Patriots will be counting on Mills to play a prominent role within their defensive backfield yet again. After all, they lost Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers and did not add a clear replacement through free agency or the draft. With slot cornerback Jonathan Jones furthermore coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, Mills is currently the only cornerback locked into a starting role.

New England’s defensive success might therefore depend on him showing some significant improvement compared to 2021.

Vince Wilfork thinks he is the best NT of all time: ‘All that credit goes to Bill Belichick’

Former New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork was announced as this year’s inductee into the team’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday. With that in mind, he shared some final thoughts on his playing career.

Wilfork was drafted by the Patriots with the 21st overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. He would go on to have a long and successful career. He played 12 seasons, recording 559 combined tackles and 16 sacks in what was a 13-year career. He made the Pro Bowl five times, and won the Super Bowl two times as a member of the Patriots.

Speaking to assembled media on Tuesday, he gave an explanation as to why he believes he is one of the best defensive tackles ever, per Zack Cox of NESN.com.

“I believe I was probably one of the best true two-gap nose tackles that ever played the game, and I would put that against anyone. I mean, I played from left to right. I played five (technique), four, three, two, one on both sides. You don’t have any noses doing that, and when you can find one, you can let me know.

“So I’ve always regarded myself as one of the best defensive tackles and the best nose tackle to ever play the game. And people can fight me on it. People can have their opinions on it. But I’m just telling you where I stand, because I was that one guy that can go from left to right defensive end and anywhere in the middle. So I was a nightmare for offenses trying to figure out where I’m going to be, and all that credit goes to Bill Belichick.”

It would be hard to argue with Wilfork’s resume, as he helped solidify stellar Patriots defenses during the first Patriots Super Bowl run. He helped stabilize the front end of the Patriots defense for several years. Throughout his time with New England, Wilfork played at a consistent level. Now, he is immortalized in Patriots history forever.

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