July 31, 2018
He came all the way from Australia to learn to play football, and at 6-foot-8, 346 pounds, his natural size and strength got him drafted by the Eagles.
He's been one of the more intriguing sights down at the NovaCare Complex, first at Eagles minicamp and now training camp. And on Tuesday morning, for the first time ever, Jordan Mailata played football at full speed, with pads on and hitting allowed.
"It's what I expected," the lineman, who turned 21 in early July said. "I knew it was going to be challenging but at the same time, I have the support of the guys here and Coach Stout, they've been a massive help. At the end of the play they come up to me and tell me what's wrong and what to focus on on the next rep."
After Tuesday, the former rugby player has a lot to focus on.
Going up against last year's first-round pick and breakout defensive end Derick Barnett, while sometimes getting a whiff of Fletcher Cox to his right, more often than not Mailata was beat to his weak side — as Barnett got consistent pressure on the quarterback. Mailata was a good sport, tried his best, but looked beat in nearly every play.
"He's fast," Mailata said of Barnett. "I need that. I was swimming in the deep end but I learn faster [that way]. Critics will have their own fair share of what they say and I will learn from it. It was tough against him. He's a good defensive end. It was quicker than I expected. It's what everyone's been telling me.
"I need to use my hands a bit more, the punching, I am not used to that. I have to get my hands down and get my timing right."
For a guy like Barnett, going up against the biggest player on the Eagles' roster is a challenge too.
"It was good," Barnett said. "Jordan is a big guy so you have to be smart going against him. He's not a little dude out here he's a grown-ass man. Going against him you have to set him up and get it going but you can see he's a lot better than when he came in. He's making progress.
Brandon Brooks, a Pro Bowl guard for Philly had a good impression of his new teammate after the first day of live drills.
"He competes, he's a competitor," Brooks, who also said that Mailata's personality reminds him of Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Big V).
"It's a massive help having those blokes showing me the way," Mailata said of his fellow offensive linemates — in true Aussie fashion.
The Eagles are deep on both the offensive and defensive lines, which presents a special opportunity to those players — as they're able to not only go up day in and day out against superior talent, but against varied players in both size, skill and technique.
"I like going against the guys on our team," Barnett said. "You get a mix, some guys are good with their feet and very powerful but then you have guys who are strong, you can't do the same thing on everybody."
"I always like to go against the best you got," Brooks said, mentioning Cox as one of his favorite opposing rushers. "I liked going up against J.J. [Watt] in Houston. Those guys don't take a play off they make you work."
While we're on the subject of Mailata, perhaps football — or even rugby — isn't the big guy's true calling:
Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports