It’s been a big offseason for the Eagles Offensive Line. A unit that came under a lot of scrutiny in 2015, the Line has seen plenty of new additions. From the Free agency signings of Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski, to the drafting of Isaac Seumalo in the third around along with Halapouli vaati Vaitai in fifth, the birds are finally in a position where depth is no longer an issue. In a new Zonal blocking scheme, it promises to be an interesting year for the Eagles O-Line..but for them to succeed, there’s one crucial are where they simply have to improve. Discipline.
Out of the 15 most penalized players per game in the NFL last year, two of them were Eagles Offensive linemen. Lane Johnson ranked 7th in total penalties while Jason Peters ranked 15th.
Johnson ranked second out of all tackles last year, with an average of 0.69 penalties per game, amassing 11 in total. Jason Peters on the other hand, tied for the 9th most at the tackle position and fifteenth overall with an average of 0.44 penalties per game and picking up 7 overall.
Peters may have picked up 4 less penalties than Johnson, but he only played in 65% of Offensive snaps due to injury. Johnson on the other hand, played in every single Offensive snap last year..a difference of 410 snaps. So for Peters to rank inside the top 15 most penalized players in the NFl despite playing 410 less snaps than Johnson who ranked 2nd..is slightly concerning.
What about Jason Kelce? Well, he picked up more penalties than any other center in the league, totaling 7 and averaging 0.44 per game. Kelce admittedly had an uncharacteristic year and is expected to bounce back in a new Offense..but it’s not the most flattering statistic to be associated with, especially when the trend runs deep into the Line.
The guard spot wasn’t too much of a concern, Dennis Kelly picked up 3 penalties on the year which in comparison is actually quite relieving. But new RG Brandon Brooks ended his season with 6, playing in 82% of his team’s snaps.
Stefen Wisniewski had just one penalty in 2015 which sheds a slightly more positive outlook on the future depth on the line, but it’s clear to see there were some fundamental problems last season. It’s not until you see how much it cost the Eagles, that you realize just how serious this widely overlooked issue is.
Of the 104 total penalties the Eagles were handed last year, 55 of them were Offensive penalties..and of those 55, 34 were down to a problem on the Offensive Line. Those 34 penalties lost the Eagles 258 Offensive yards in 2015.
The problem was still persistent in 2014, the Offense lost 253 yards because of the line on a further 31 penalties. At this point, many of you will likely be blaming Chip Kelly for such devastating yard loss due to Line penalties..but the problem runs far deeper.
It’s something that the Eagles have struggled with for a while now. And with Doug Pederson implementing an Offense that is likely to closely resemble that of Andy Reid’s, it’s not as if the Line was suddenly eratic under Chip Kelly when it came to penalties..the problem was just as bad before his arrival..and it could be set to continue unless Pederson can force the winds of change to blow in Philadelphia.
The Offensive line is going to be the heartbeat of the Eagles Offense. There has been such an emphasis on improving pass-blocking this offseason. Brandon Brooks had a sensational 2014 campaign while the likes of “Big V” and Isaac Seumalo provide enough versatility to help contribute in multiple areas effectively. On paper, this is a unit that has an abundance of depth and a scheme that should benefit the skill-set of the linemen on the roster..meaning a good year could very well be on the horizon. But if the penalties are still an issue in 2016, they can only go so far.
It may not seem like the biggest issue on this team..and it isn’t. But it’s a problem that’s already hindering the team in Training Camp and if it continues to haunt them deep into the regular season, when the fatigue of playing 13 games without a bye begins to set in and the depth is called upon..the Eagles could be fighting a demon they really shouldn’t have to be fighting.
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