157kg monster’s ‘unreal transformation’
PHILADELPHIA Eagles hopeful Jordan Mailata has earned plenty of praise for his pre-season performance against the Cleveland Browns.
Mailata was taken at pick number 233 in the seventh round by the defending NFL champions but has surprised many during pre-season to be in contention for the Eagles' final 53-man roster to start the year.
Former NFL offensive lineman and NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger tweeted his praise for the former Sydneysider.
Weighing in at 157kg and standing 2.03m tall, Mailata has been a physical presence at left tackle when given game time.
His job is to block opponents from getting to the quarterback - in the Eagles' case, $36 million dollar man Carson Wentz or Super Bowl hero Nick Foles - and Mailata was up to the task against Cleveland.
Baldinger gushed about Mailata's improvement. The Browns have won just one game in the past two seasons but that didn't matter to the former NFL star.
"Now this guy, he was just good last night, I don't care who he played against," Baldinger said. "This is just great technique. Like, all night long. I don't care who he's playing against. The stance, the shuffle, the hands, the powerful hands.
"This is real growth. This is amazing. To pass a stunt like this, this is how you do it by the way. You flatten the inside rusher, you flatten him. And you throw him to Chance Warmack. And you wait for the tackle to come around.
"Violent hands. You don't see violent hands in the NFL anymore. This guy has got a real chance. I never thought it was possible. It's unreal. He's taken a thousand light years of steps in four months."
It's been a whirlwind ride for the 21-year-old former South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league player.
Mailata has shown rapid improvement and played 26 snaps against the Browns, showing how far he has come after admitting he knew "as little as peanuts" when he was drafted.
He has been working with future Hall of Famer Jason Peters at the Eagles as he returns from an ACL injury.
Speaking to NBC Sports Philadelphia in the fourth part of its Surviving Camp series, Mailata said he was lucky be able to pick the brain of players like Peters.
"Honestly, I'm so lucky to be where I am right now," Mailata said.
"I think recognising that, the players that are in the locker room, especially the veterans, we as rookies are incredibly blessed. Because not only do the coaches go out of their way, the players do too. They give us little tips."
The signs are also getting stronger the Australian will be kept in the Eagles squad for upcoming season.
Eagles offensive co-ordinator Mike Groh hinted as much after the Eagles' match against the New England Patriots last week, where Mailata was on the field for just four snaps.
"We're pleased with his progress. Two weeks ago he played his first football game. We're really pleased with his progress," Groh said.
"He's doing everything that Stout (Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) has asked him to do.
"This is the first time for him, and he's got to learn from those experiences and just continue to bank them and continue to get better each and every day.
"But his technique has gotten better. It's not for lack of want to or trying. He really is attentive to every detail, and it's just trying to catch up to the game."
Several Eagles beat writers are also convinced the Aussie will make the roster.
Mailata's NFL journey started in Florida in January with the IMG Academy where he was put through his paces.
His eagerness to learn a game he knew nothing about drove him to great heights and it was at pro day where he grabbed everyone's attention.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.12 seconds and completed the short shuttle in 4.67 seconds. Those times would have put him in the top-10 for both categories had they come at the NFL Combine earlier in the year.
The scouting report on the powerfully built former league player listed his strengths as his "tremendous size" along with his "physical and athletic traits". One NFL executive said he was a "freak athlete for his size".
But former Seattle Seahawks player Jesse Williams warned Mailata still has a long way to go.
Speaking with Channel 9's Wide World of Sports, the Australian said bypassing college may make his journey tougher.
"Congrats to him to be able to make the jump and make the most of his opportunities, but I think he's got his work cut out for him," Williams said.
"I'm not saying he can't do it. I definitely think with his size, his measurables, I think he's in a good place to make the practice squad and get further developed with a good coach.
"But it just depends on the dynamics of the team and their roster numbers and whether they can take the risk vs reward for them. I wish him nothing but success.
"We'll find out by the end of training camp if his uptake of the information and plays has been fast enough. It's definitely a tough task."
The Philadelphia Eagles play their last pre-season game Friday, August 31, against the New York Jets.
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