Sat, 25 Sep 2021

Unheralded Nick Mullens adds his flavor to QB room

Philadelphia Eagles
01 Aug 2021, 19:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

Fun fact: Nick Mullens has thrown for 4,405 yards in his first 16 career starts, second only in NFL history by any quarterback in his first 16 starts, trailing only Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes (5,100 yards). Ask that trivia question at your fantasy football draft and see if anyone comes up with the answer.

"What does that mean to me?" Mullens smiles and repeats to himself after Friday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "It's pretty cool. Passing yards don't necessarily translate to wins, but it's still something to be proud of. I'm in this league because I'm a passer, so you have to play to your strengths and I think I've done that very well."

Mullens signed with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent as the team wrapped up its spring practices, a quiet move that bolstered the depth in the quarterback room. Mullens joins Jalen Hurts and Joe Flacco, a trio that's accounted for 195 career NFL starts (Flacco 175, Mullens 16, Hurts 4). It is an experienced and diverse group that is leaning on each other to navigate the Training Camp landscape. With a new system, a bunch of new players, and camp about to heat up when the pads go on next week, The Men in Red (quarterbacks wear red jerseys in NFL Training Camps, which means DO NOT TOUCH) are each other's biggest fans.

"Jalen is cool and I love seeing his work ethic. Joe has been really cool to listen to, given all the experience he's had in the league," Mullens said. "I had never spent time around a Super Bowl winner, a Super Bowl MVP. We have a lot of great football minds and I love talking with them and also hearing them evaluate each other and make each other better.

"I'm here to come out to practice, get my reps, and make the most of each and every one of them and then, hey, we will see what happens."

Mullens remained unsigned deep into the spring because he suffered an elbow injury late in the 2020 campaign while playing for San Francisco and the injury required surgery. Teams backed off of Mullens until the Eagles reached out and got a deal done in June. Fully healthy, Mullens has gone about his work in the shadows of Hurts and Flacco in the first week of camp. He has worked with the No. 3 offense, but that doesn't matter to Mullens. He's glad to be here, to have an opportunity to prove himself once again, and to be part of the Eagles organization, one that he has admired from afar - for various reasons - in his life.

"It's been great. It's awesome. You hear about Eagles fans, Eagles tradition, Eagles history, I've always thought the helmet was one of the coolest in football, so being able to wear the helmet and work with these coaches in this environment, which is filled with energy, it's been great so far," Mullens said. "I've enjoyed every bit of it. I'm working hard and feeling good. The elbow is fine and I feel like I know what I'm doing in the offense."

Signed by San Francisco as an undrafted free agent in 2017, Mullens spent that season on the 49ers' practice squad before making the 53-man roster in 2018. The Southern Mississippi product then went out and threw three touchdown passes and had a passer rating of 151.9 in his NFL debut against the Raiders on October 1 of that season and he joined legends Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton as the only players in league history to record 250-plus passing yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions in their first NFL games. Mullens started eight games that season, throwing 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. After serving as a backup the following season when the Niners went to the Super Bowl, Mullens replaced the injured Jimmy Garoppolo and played 10 games, with eight starts, tossing 12 TDs and 12 interceptions before the injury suffered against Dallas on December 20.

His season was over.

His future was uncertain.

Now he's an Eagle and he's launching a new phase of his NFL career.

"I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunities," Mullens said. "My time in San Francisco was something special for me - some really good times and some tough times - but all in all I was given a chance to show what I could do and I am appreciative of that. I had some good games and I had some bad games, but I had the chance to play and that's all I can ask for. You have to be ready at all times and you have to perform when your number is called. You have to lead a group of guys and get them into the end zone. That's the fun part - scoring points. That's what it's all about."

Because he signed so late in the spring and just as the players and coaches here were about to go on a six-week vacation, Mullens had to teach himself the language of the offense. He did so by diving into the recent Zoom meetings that had been recorded so that he could feel part of the virtual setting as the coaching staff installed the offense. He watched the meetings and he watched the practices from the spring and then he prepared on his own for camp.

The job is as simple and yet as complex as any task in sports: The quarterback is asked to make the right decisions quickly, to deliver the football accurately and on time, and to trust the playmakers and the coaching staff.

"That's what we do," Mullens said. "Just do what we need to do and the offense is going to flow. We have a lot of playmakers here. I have to get the football in their hands. I feel like I'm coming along and making the progress I want to see. I'm here to help the QB room and if I get called on, I'm going to step on the field and deliver. I like everything about the offense. We know we have to work and grind and get better. That is kind of what Training Camp is always all about."

The numbers? They've been very good at times for Mullens, who has thrown for at least 200 yards in each of his 16 NFL starts. His role here is to be there when and if the Eagles need him. And just like that, the team has a three-headed quarterback room that has experience at every level, a terrific show of depth at the game's most important position.

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