The ultimate Eagles OTA preview part 3: offensive line edition

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The third segment in our ultimate Eagles OTA preview moves the spotlight to a revamped offensive line. Building from the ball out was always the focus for the Eagles this offseason, and with Lane Johnson now sitting on his rightful throne once again, the future certainly looks bright. However, OTA’s will present some interesting narratives to follow. If you’ve missed the first two articles, you can check them out below:

The ultimate Eagles OTA preview part 1: Quarterback edition

The ultimate Eagles OTA preview part 2: running back edition

 

Where’s Wis?
Stefen Wisniewski joined the Eagles last year in the hopes of earning a long-term deal, or cementing a starting role. He would go on to play in 54% of the team’s offensive snaps, proving to be instrumental in the success and continuity of the line. One year later, Wis would sign a three-year extension with the team..but his true role still remains a mystery. Having made it clear that he wanted a starting role, Wisniewski returns to the Eagles on paper, as the backup to Jason Kelce at Center..but is that where the story ends?

Wis spent a lot of time at left guard last season, and Doug Pederson has made it inherently clear that the battle for the starting LG spot is wide open. From Isaac Seumalo and Allen Barbre, to the resurgent Chance Warmack, there is an abundance of candidates..but could Wis be among them, or will he simply backup Kelce at center?

We will get our first real insight into this once OTA’s roll around, and while it may seem like something that doesn’t carry a lot of weight, if Wisniewski displaces Barbre at LG due to the foundations laid during OTA’s, it would likely see Isaac Seumalo move to center..which as we all know by now, seems to be the clouded path that’s too clouded to think about..for now.

 

How will Chance Warmack fare?
A first round pick in 2013 and the newest addition to the Eagles offensive front, Chance Warmack previously served as the starting right guard for the Titans, but injuries and inconsistencies saw the praise that used to lift him, begin to weigh him down. Although he hasn’t consistently lived up to the first-round label placed on him coming out of Alabama..the Eagles have one man in place who knows exactly how to light that Fire, Jeff Stoutland.

This will be the first time that Warmack takes to the field in midnight green and he’s arguably one of the biggest unknowns coming into this period of the offseason. Can Warmack salvage his fall from grace? If he is to do so, he simply has to win the battle to start at LG. With his prove-it deal being prominent in the minds of many, it will be interesting to see how Warmack, a former first round pick, fares alongside Allen Barbre, and last year’s third round pick, Isaac Seumalo to begin with.

Warmack clearly has a lot of potential and the Eagles have given him a lifeline with the hopes that Jeff Stoutland can help him realize that ceiling. But it’s one step at a time for Warmack..and the first step on the road to redemption sees him walk into OTA’s with a chip on his shoulder. Will Warmack start with the one’s, or the two’s? Could Doug Pederson perhaps start him even lower than that and force him to climb every rung of the ladder? It’s these intricacies that may sound irrelevant to some, but could swing a lot of momentum in the weeks to come.

 

Left Guard battle commences:
A combination of the two points made above sees the starting LG up for grabs in what is rapidly becoming an exciting free-for-all. Expect this battle to last the duration of Training Camp, but the initial impact will be made over the coming weeks. Aside from the players already mentioned, there are also plenty of undrafted free agents and former practice squad members who could be looking to force their way into the battle.

 

Competition at every position seems to be the motto, and there may be none more intense on the offense than the battle at LG. Who will get the upper hand heading into what could prove to be a vital Training camp? We will find out soon enough..but this is definitely worth paying close attention to.

 

The groupings:
This may sound like a non-factor, but this is absolutely huge in the trenches. With so many depth spots up for grabs, the groupings carry a lot of weight. For instance, will Halapoulivaati Vaitai be the default backup RT, or will they instead play him behind Jason Peters? The LG battle could prove to be an extremely tough battle for a player beginning his journey at the bottom of the depth chart during OTA’s, and then there’s always the arrival of UDFA Tyler Orlovsky, who could well be an underdog to force his way onto the roster. Will he come into the program starting at the bottom, or maybe even backing up Kelce?

While the roles themselves (working with the starters as opposed to backups) may not matter, the positions and performances certainly will.

 

An emerging prototype?
With the signing of LaGarrette Blount, the Eagles finally have a rusher who can punish defenses who go light in the box by punching it up the gut. Last year, their O-Line was largely deploying a zonal rushing scheme, with a lot of emphasis on pushing the pocket and moving the pressure. With Bount in the backfield, could the Eagles instead begin to value strength over athleticism? What makes Jason Kelce so valuable is his rum-blocking ability and vision to get downfield to finish blocks and make further ones. If the Eagles are instead focusing on pass-protection for Wentz, and a more physically imposing mentality in the trenches as opposed to one of slight finesse, could we see some of the underdogs push through?

The Eagles carried 17 offensive linemen on their 90-man roster last year, and 2017 is set to replicate that statistic. Newly signed Victor Salako and Tyler Orlovsky join Dillon Gordon, Darell Greene as some of the names who will be looking to use their large frames to push their way into the spotlight and earn the attention of the coaching staff.

The Eagles aren’t going to change their west-coast offense to incorporate Blount, that would just be stupid..however, it will be intriguing to see if the blocking assignments and core focus shift ever so slightly in order to create a more up-the-gut style of rushing, as Kansas City once had with Jamaal Charles.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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