The Future is Bright for the Eagles’ Offensive Line
Once again, injuries plagued the Philadelphia Eagles across both sides of the football in 2020. The worst recipient of the injury bug was Philadelphia’s offensive line. The substantial number of injuries up-front was a key piece of the Eagles lack of success this season and was extremely frustrating to watch. The silver lining would be the fact that these injuries allowed several young players to get an opportunity that likely wouldn’t have been given to them on any other team and allowed us to see the depth along the offensive line throughout the season.
If any Eagles coach is retained it needs to be Jeff Stoutland. Stoutland was by far the best Eagles coach this past season and the large reason for their success since his hiring in 2013. His coaching has been monumental to the success of the young offensive linemen for the Eagles.
To start the season the Eagles were in a lot of trouble upfront. Brandon Brooks tearing his second Achilles was absolutely brutal and heartbreaking. Brooks is easily a top-five guard in the entire league when healthy. The fact that he was ready to go if the Eagles made a playoff push is astonishing. Losing Andre Dillard could been seen as a worse loss but helped open the door for other young players to get a chance.
Andre Dillard was drafted to be somewhat of a project for the Eagles. He wasn’t ready just yet to be thrown into play and needed some time behind the scenes. The appealing thing about Dillard when he was drafted was his frame. He is six foot five and has crazy athleticism for a tackle. Dillard is fantastic at recovering ground lost in pass rush with his quick slide and helping to contain speed rushers. He failed to meet fans expectations due to his lack of success in the run game in 2019 as a substitute.
The main adjustment needed was Andre needed to gain more weight. Coming out of college he simply wasn’t capable of dealing with the improved strength at the NFL level. During this past offseason, he gained over 20 pounds of muscle and looked to be the real deal before tearing his bicep during camp. This ultimately led to the ascent of Jordan Mailata.
I’ve said it several times before but man, was I wrong about Jordan Mailata. I did not expect him to develop so quickly and turn into one of the best tackles in football from a pure talent standpoint. There is not a single player in the entire league that is larger than Mailata with anywhere near the athleticism he has.
There are some adjustments to be made but that should be expected from someone at his age. At times Mailata reels back too much in his pass set instead of establishing his ground earlier to give the QB some room.
Jordan was an absolute steal of a draft pick alongside several of his teammates. It is a shame that the entire Jason Peters debacle where the Eagles were forced by Jason to give him a $5 million raise to play tackle again. This took away several games for Mailata to improve while Peters played the worst games of his career.
Although he is often at blame and many reasons are justified, you have to give Howie credit for drafting this talent. Roseman took Mailata in the seventh round, Jack Driscoll in the fourth, Isaac Seuamlo in the third, Jason Kelce in the sixth, and former Eagle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the 5th. Vaitai is now the starting tackle for the Detroit Lions after being a valuable rotation piece for the Eagles.
Nate Herbig was the starting guard following Jason Peters move to left tackle. In his 12 starts, Herbig was very impressive. The trend with many of these young player’s weaknesses is just football IQ. This is often expected with things like recognizing stunts and picking up the right rusher. Talent-wise Nate seems to have all the right pieces to be a successful guard and easily one of the best backups in the league. With his six foot four stature, it will likely be no time before he is starting for an NFL team.
The last of this young core that sticks out is a recent draft pick, Jack Driscoll. Driscoll was another player thrown right into the fire. After Lane Johnson was announced out during the season opener, Driscoll filled in at right tackle. His major flaw was the same as everyone else in recognizing stunts. This was expected not even because of his youth, but no film on a new d-line with an entirely new coaching staff.
Driscoll stonewalled number two pick Chase Young on several pass rush attempts and held his ground well. Jack’s own injuries held him out of several games but the talent is easy to see it’s there. For being the Eagles’ fourth-best tackle he is fantastic at his role and the 23-year-old is going to only get better.
In 2021 you’re going to be miles better. Pro-Bowlers Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson will be healthy and Andre Dillard and Mailata will be battling it out in an exciting battle for left tackle. Jason Kelce will be the leader with Isaac Seumalo continuing to grow. This doesn’t even include other promising players not discussed like Sua Opeta.
The Eagles have a fantastic front five and while they still have some years left, the future is already set. This horrible season has left them now with one of the deepest benches in football. While many things are uncertain about the Eagles currently, you can be thankful the offensive line is ready to go.
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images