Building from the ball out. That’s been the sentiment for this Philadelphia Eagles team since the offseason in which Carson Wentz was drafted. From the huge extension given to franchise right tackle Lane Johnson, to the infusion of youth with Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, fortifying the trenches has been a priority for the Eagles…and 9 games into the season, it’s paying dividends.
Carson Wentz is one of the leading MVP candidates, throwing 23 touchdown passes in just nine games, while the Eagles are now riding an eight-game streak of 100+ rushing yards. Offensive success all starts up front. Just ask Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. But while the stars scoring touchdowns draw praise, the o-line continues to go underrated.
The Eagles are giving up an average of just 2.5 sacks per game on Carson Wentz this season. Last season? That number was 2.06. The consistency and chemistry along the offensive front isn’t just keeping the future of their franchise upright against some tenacious pass rushes, but its paving the way for an astonishing rushing effort. Both of these traits were on show in the blowout win over Denver. Rushing for 197 yards and dropping a 50-burger on the league’s toughest defense is no easy task…but the Eagles made it look staggeringly simple.
“I just think it comes down to the way the guys practice and the way they prepare during the week.” Doug Pederson said of the fortress that has been built up front. “A lot of pride with that offensive line. They kept hearing all week how good — and this is a good defense, don’t get me wrong, but they kept hearing all week how good this defense is. And our guys have a lot of pride, too, and they want to take that upon themselves. I think the offensive line wanted to also kind of rebound, too, from the week before. I don’t think they played necessarily great the week before, and they were up against a good opportunity and a good team this week and rose to the occasion.”
Lane Johnson was on record one week ago as being incredibly self critical on his performance, despite the big win over San Francisco. “I think we weathered the storm.” Said Johnson. “It’s not the way the offense wanted to play. We came out slow and didn’t execute. I’m just glad with the way we battled because not every game is going to be perfect or look good. But we found a way to win and that’s what teams do.”
This is about more than just “doing your job”. If the Eagles offensive line isn’t decimating defenses, they’re not happy. Jeff Stoutland isn’t happy. The sweat equity within this group runs from the legendary Jason Peters right down to the likes of Dillon Gordon on the practice squad. They’re not the noisiest guys in the locker room. It’s very rare to hear arrogant or cocky quotes from the group. But just like a Swan in the water, you don’t see what the legs are doing beneath the surface.
“Our offensive line is relentless.” Said the team’s lead running back, LeGarrette Blount. “They grind every single day, all day. It shows when we come out here and put the pads on on Sunday. They did everything they were taught to do today and throughout the week. It gets to the point where things slow down for them. They do everything they have to do to make sure they prepare for games like this. Those guys were ranked No. 1 in the league for rush defense, so we came in here with a mindset that we want to run the football.”
There is a chip on the shoulder of every Eagles offensive lineman. Playing at such a high level without the national recognition that other offensive lines receive is only pushing them to make statement after statement. Every week, the narrative follows a pass-rush that will make life troublesome for Carson Wentz. The Niners, the Broncos, the Chargers, the Giants. All tried and all failed to break through the walls that Roseman built. The Eagles are tired of hearing how good opposing units are…and they’re out to play their absolute best each and every week.
“No, they are a good team.” Broncos guard Ron Leary said after the game. “They are the No. 1 team in the league for a reason. We were up for the challenge, but we just didn’t get it done and hats off to them.”
The Eagles did more than make a statement against Denver, Keeping the explosive Von Miller at bay all game and rushing for 197 yards, the Eagles allowed just one sack on Carson Wentz…and if you think the team aren’t playing with a visible incentive…just watch this block.
Here's that Lane Johnson Von Miller toss one more time. pic.twitter.com/748GfrfJOA
— James Simpson (@JS_Football) November 7, 2017
“Our offensive line played lights out.” Blount went on to say. “On Jay’s run, he didn’t even get touched. On Corey’s [Eagles RB Corey Clement’s] screen, I don’t think he got touched by one person. You can include Wendell’s [Eagles RB Wendell Smallwood’s 26-yard run] too. You can count a lot of plays where our offensive line did extremely well blocking those guys. You have to look at how tough it is to block [Broncos DE] Derek Wolfe, [Broncos LB] Von Miller, [Broncos NT Domata] Peko, [Broncos OLB] Shane Ray, and all of those guys. It’s tough to run against them, which is why they are ranked as high as they were.”
The offensive line isn’t here to be taken for granted. They want to be the most feared unit in the league and the aggressiveness in their play resembles that. Last year, they lost Lane Johnson to suspension. This year, they lost legendary Jason Peters to injury…but nothing has stopped this unit from running rampant.
“We’re as good as we want to be. It all starts up here [pointing to head]. We can’t get complacent. We have to just keep it going. This backstretch is really important; coming off the bye week against Dallas is a big game for us.”
Halfway home, the Eagles offensive line is just getting started. Halfway home, and the Eagles offensive line may have finally began to earn the respect they deserve…being revered as the most impressive front in the league. This isn’t just a blocking unit, this is a fortress. A brick wall. A tank that just won’t stop ploughing through whatever stands in its path. The house that Roseman built is protected by the finest army in the league and with youth and hunger on their side, the future is incredibly bright.