Pass Protection has become a priority for the Eagles Offensive Line

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The Eagles Offensive Line has undergone quite the makeover during the offseason. From the addition of former Texans guard Brandon Brooks, to the signing of Stefen Wisniewski, the Eagles have focused a lot of their attention on strengthening the line..and with good reason.

The Offensive Line became a huge weakness for the Eagles last season. While the unit excelled in run-blocking..an area that wasn’t capitalized on by an inability to run the ball successfully, the Line was terrible when it came to pass blocking. The Eagles allowed 37 sacks last year and consistently leaked pressure from all angles.

The Eagles selected Oregon State lineman Isaac Seumalo in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft in a move that may have puzzled some due to the abundance of talent in other positions still left on the board. However, while Doug Pederson may have named Allen Barbre as “the guy” at Left Guard..things may not stay that way for long.

It’s no coincidence that the one key strength in Seumalo’s game, was a weakness for the Eagles in 2015. His versatility may impress after a year in which he played at just about every position..but it’s his surprising pass-blocking dominance that could eventually earn him a starting job.

Last year, Seumalo played in 407 pass-block snaps..allowing no sacks, no hits on the quarterback and just four hurries (according to Pro Football Focus). If you’re still not impressed, he ranked in the top 3 out players in his position when it came to pass-blocking efficiency. Not to mention that three of his starts were actually at Left Tackle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhax2UX0xiM

If you watch any of the videos embedded in this article, you’ll quickly realize that the one aspect of Seumalo’s game you cannot overlook is his ability to sustain blocks. He stays planted once the block is initiated and keeps his hands close to his chest, meaning that for a defender to beat him..they have to go through him. Something that’s relatively difficult considering Seumalo stands at 6’4 and weighs 303 pounds.

Sure, you’ll see plenty of run-blocking from Seumalo and his ability to drive blocks and create holes..but that’s something that the Eagles are already prominent in doing. It’s the pass-blocking where the Line struggled more than anywhere else.

When you look at how Doug Pederson used Alex Smith in Kansas City during his time as Offensive Coordinator, you begin to see the importance of a secure pocket. The Chiefs allowed 46 sacks last season..a number that would have been much higher if it wasn’t for the athleticism of Alex Smith.

The Chiefs were able to dominate on the ground despite the absence of Jamaal Charles..and that was largely down to a combination the surprise factor endorsed by the Chiefs backfield and an Offensive Line that opened up the middle of the line successfully. According to Football Outsiders, 71% of the Chiefs rushing attempts were up the middle.

The Eagles added interior guard Brandon Brooks as aforementioned..it would be of no coincidence that he is also dominant when it comes to pass-protection.

The Eagles have one of the best run-blocking Offensive Lines in the league..but if Pederson wants a more balanced Offense, the Line has to be able to protect the quarterback far more efficiently. This is where the addition of Isaac Seumalo becomes so important.

Having played at guard, tackle and even center..Seumalo has the potential to be a huge asset to the Eagles. With a degenerative injury still haunting Jason Peters and an inconsistent season from Jason Kelce in 2015, the Eagles could well need to dig into their depth chart a little sooner than they’d like. Seumalo would be the dream plug-and-play option for the Eagles.

Wisniewski is no doubt a dark-horse to outperform Barbre in training camp and take the starting LG position..but it wouldn’t be a bold prediction to assume that Seumalo is going to play a large role on the Offensive Line at some point during the 2016 season with such a heavy emphasis on control of the Offense for Sam Bradford.

 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Young Kwak

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