The Patriots are offering early hints on how they plan to use Jalen Mills in their reworked secondary

Jalen Mills will likely be shifted over from his usual spot at outside corner during the 2023 season.

The Patriots held practice at their Gillette Stadium practice field. Jalen Mills catches a pass
Jalen Mills has been shifted all over the depth chart so far during the Patriots' OTA sessions. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Replacing Devin McCourty in the Patriots’ secondary is a task easier said than done.

But shortly after the longtime Patriots captain hung up his spikes in March, cornerback Jalen Mills took to social media to vouch for some reps at McCourty’s usual spot at safety.

Based on what we’ve seen so far during the Patriots’ organized team activities (OTAs), Bill Belichick and New England’s coaching staff heard Mills.

Even though Mills has primarily operated as an outside cornerback during his first two seasons in Foxboro, the 29-year-old defensive back has been shifted all over the depth chart so far during the final stage of the NFL offseason.


A majority of Mills’ snaps during OTAs have either come at safety or while lining up as slot corner, a sizable shift from his previous role.

So far, it seems like the Patriots are operating on a “by committee” approach to replacing McCourty.

Along with the current safeties on the roster like Kyle Dugger, Jabrill Peppers, and Adrian Phillips, New England has also handed 2023 third-round pick Marte Mapu (a linebacker at Sacramento State) some reps at the position this spring.

“It’s really on [the coaches],” Mills said of his shifting role on the Patriots’ roster. “Guys in the secondary, we come out in the huddle. I might be out there with Pep and Dugg, and they’re like, ‘Hey Mills, go to nickel this drive.’

Or they might be like, ‘Hey, go get on a tight end this drive.’ … So I think it’s just, we talk about the versatility of guys being able to play every different thing.”

Jonathan Jones inking a two-year contract extension this offseason does give New England even more options with secondary personnel. Jones has spent most of his career with the Patriots as an effective slot corner, but was moved to the outside in 2022.


So far during OTAs, both Jones and first-round pick Christian Gonzalez have remained as outside corners, with Mills shifting between slot corner and safety.

Mills’ position shift stands as the latest move in what has been an interesting offseason for the defensive back. While it was initially reported in March that the Patriots were going to cut Mills in order to save cap space, they eventually restructured his deal into a one-year contract that will let him hit free agency in 2024.  

Mills and the Patriots are looking for a clean slate in 2023, especially after the veteran missed the final six games of the 2022 campaign due to a nagging groin injury.

“Here with the Patriots, everything is a little bit unexpected,” Mills said. “But when your number’s called, you have to be ready.”


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