What Kendrick Bourne is to the New England Patriots’ offense, Jalen Mills is to their top-ranked defense.
That’s the comparison head coach Bill Belichick made Monday when asked about Mills, who registered two third-down pass breakups and recovered a pivotal fumble in a 36-13 win over the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium.
“Jalen’s kind of the defensive Kendrick Bourne,” Belichick said of the veteran cornerback. “High energy, always ready to go, very durable, tough, out there all the time. Has a good, physical style of play. Generally tackles well in the run game, jams receivers and has good instincts. He’s around the ball. He’s done a nice job for us. It’s a different system than what he played in in Philadelphia, but I think he’s adapted to it well and is a good all-around football player. He’s good in all areas and continues to learn a little bit more about the system that he’s in.”
Like Bourne, Mills joined the Patriots as part of their free agent spending binge this past offseason, coming over from the Eagles on a four-year, $24 million contract. Expected to be a multi-positional player in New England’s secondary, the 27-year-old instead has been the team’s No. 2 outside cornerback since training camp, starting opposite J.C. Jackson in every game in which he’s appeared and playing 79% of defensive snaps.
Mills isn’t a lockdown man-coverage player like former Patriots star Stephon Gilmore, but his play has helped soften the blow of Gilmore’s departure. Over his last four games, the green-haired corner has allowed four catches on nine targets for 44 yards with three breakups, according to Pro Football Focus.
Overall, the Patriots have held each of their last four opponents below 170 passing yards and haven’t allowed a single 250-yard passer during their current six-game win streak. They entered Sunday with the NFL’s No. 2 pass defense by Football Outsiders’ DVOA and proceeded to hold Ryan Tannehill and a shorthanded Titans passing attack to 93 yards with nine passes defended.
“We’ve had generally decent coverage,” Belichick said. “Obviously, we’ll be tested this week against Buffalo’s passing attack, but Jalen’s been a really solid addition for us. I’m glad we have him, and I love his versatility and his overall play style.”