PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Mills intercepted a pass in the end zone, ran it out to midfield and let everyone know he just made a big play in practice.
Celebrations are in midseason form at Philadelphia Eagles camp.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” newcomer Nickell Robey-Coleman said Monday. “We have bonded so much during a couple weeks. It’s been cool getting to know the guys more. We’re coming together. We tell each other to have fun in the midst of everything.”
That means celebrating picks and pass breakups with choreographed handshakes and dance routines. Cre’Von LeBlanc and Robey-Coleman, who are competing for the starting spot at nickel cornerback, named one of their elaborate handshakes “gravedigger.”
LeBlanc has welcomed Robey-Coleman and Darius Slay to the secondary, even though it might cost him snaps.
“My mindset is just to control what I can control, focus on the task at hand, getting into the playbook a little more,” LeBlanc said. “Just jell with some of the new guys and new additions and build that chemistry.”
Slay was the biggest addition for a revamped secondary. The Eagles traded a third-round pick (No. 85 overall) and a fifth-round pick (No. 166) to the Lions to get the three-time Pro Bowl pick in March.
The team didn’t re-sign starting cornerback Ronald Darby, who went to Washington. Mills, a starting cornerback the last three seasons, is switching to safety. He replaced Malcolm Jenkins, who was released. The Eagles also signed safety Will Parks and brought in Robey-Coleman.
Avonte Maddox is likely going to start opposite Slay. Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas are also vying for snaps.
The competition is stiff but the camaraderie is stronger.
“Jalen and the boys, they took me in,” Slay said. “We set high standards. We have high expectations for the group. We love to ball, man.”
Slay’s tenure in Detroit included clashing with coach Matt Patricia. He said he enjoys coach Doug Pederson and the coaching staff in Philadelphia because players are treated like “grown men.”
“It’s important because a lot of guys have different characteristics,” Slay said. “For example, I’m a goofy guy. It might not seem that I make everything look serious, but I’m pretty serious. I just like to have a smile on my face. Somebody could be having a bad day, but me coming in with a great smile could just change somebody’s day. You don’t know what people go through while they are at work. To come here, have freedom, and be around your guys in a sport that you want to do, you have to enjoy it.”
The veteran leader in the secondary is safety Rodney McLeod, who assumes Jenkins’ role as he enters his fifth season in Philadelphia.
“I like his game,” Robey-Coleman said of McLeod. “He knows where everybody is supposed to be. He’s like a quarterback on defense. I love that, especially as a nickel because my safety is my best friend. I always pick his brain. He’s spot on. His daily routine is what a true professional should look at. The standard he sets for the DBs, he wants greatness for everybody, not just himself. That’s so cool because not everybody is like that.”
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