Are we seeing the resurgence of Andre Dillard?
One of the most significant negatives throughout training camp was the performance of former first-round pick Andre Dillard. Dillard had always caught the short end of the stick since the beginning of his career. When he was first drafted, the big knock on Dillard was that he needed to get stronger and wasn’t ready to be a starter in the NFL just yet.
The Eagles still had Jason Peters and weren’t going to throw Dillard into the fire, but they were forced to do so in typical Philadelphia fashion. Andre Dillard didn’t look that great in his rookie season, but everyone knew the circumstances and cut him some slack.
Going into 2020, it seemed like Dillard would finally turn that corner, putting on over 20 pounds in the offseason. But after a rough start to camp, the Eagles left tackle suffered a torn bicep that shut him down for the season and allowed for the emergence of Jordan Mailata.
This summer, Nick Sirianni made it clear Andre Dillard would have a fair shot to take over at left tackle, but he stood no match against the physical freak that Jordan Mailata is. After a few brutal practices and injuries, many were ready to call it quits on the former first-round selection. Trade rumors circulated while some even said the Eagles might just cut him from the active roster.
Finally, Andre Dillard got his chance in the preseason finale against the New York Jets. Dillard finished the game with a team-high 81.5 pass-blocking rating through 25 pass plays, not allowing a single hurry or pressure. Now, this is the New York Jets in the preseason, so it isn’t saying much, but it’s exactly the performance you would want from someone of his caliber.
Flash forward to Monday, Jordan Mailata is out with an MCL sprain, and Andre Dillard has his first shot in a legitimate NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on national television. It was a perfect opportunity to showcase his talents against a weaker line and get back into the swing of things. Once again, Dillard finished with a team-high pass-blocking rating of 81.7 through 53 pass blocks and only allowed two pressures on the night.
Still, these are both weak defensive lines but having a showing like this is all you can ask for. Whatever Andre Dillard may do today against Kansas City won’t win him the starting job over Jordan Mailata, especially after he just signed a lucrative extension. However, several teams across the league have had issues with their offensive lines, and there is a place for him to start in the NFL.
Despite his success there are still some issues in Andre Dillard’s game. The two most notable things are his run-blocking and overall strength in pass protection. His run-blocking has improved but is still a bit shaky but when hit was power moves in pass pro, Dillard looked out of his element and knocked off his center of gravity. Still, these issues look improved from how they were in his rookie season in 2019.
Based on how many injuries the Eagles have suffered on the offensive line already, it’s highly doubtful that they’ll move Dillard this season unless they somehow get a high draft pick or a talented player in another position of need like a linebacker.
If Dillard shows out once again, there’s a chance the Eagles could continue to go with him as the starter until they make sure Jordan Mailata is completely healthy. Mailata’s injury wasn’t deemed serious at all, but if there’s no reason, why rush him back after you paid him that much?
So while his future might not lie in Philadelphia, Andre Dillard has proven over the last few weeks that he could be the solution for another team at left tackle. And those who criticized Howie Roseman for the selection, for as much as he’s done wrong, I can’t blame him in this situation.
Jordan Mailata is a freak of nature who has shown to be one of the best linemen in football, but Dillard has just been extremely unlucky with what has been dealt to him. If things continue as they have for Andre Dillard this Sunday, it’s time to seriously reconsider the outlook of his future.
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer