The Eagles have been playing with a chip on their shoulder this season. Tired of hearing about how good opposing teams are, the aggressive Philadelphia outfit have been out to prove people wrong since the moment they played their opening snaps against Washington. Ten weeks and nine wins later, it’s safe to say they have just done that. But there may have been no victory more vindicating than the most recent win over Dallas…at least for the offensive line.
For years now, Dallas has been revered as having the most dominant offensive line in Football. DeMarco Murray, Dak Prescott, Tony Romo and Ezekiel Elliott have all benefited from a veteran line that has only gotten better as the years have gone by. After a crushing overtime loss just 12 months ago dealt by the Cowboys, Philadelphia came into this matchup with even more of an incentive to dethrone the Cowboys.
Without their franchise left tackle, the Eagles came into the matchup well rested off a bye. Howie Roseman has made it his mission to ‘build from the ball out’ since drafting Carson Wentz in order to protect the future of the franchise. An extension for Lane Johnson and the acquiring of Brandon Brooks was supported by a strong draft and some key free agent additions with players like Stefen Wisniewski earning himself a longer-term future with the team.
Carson Wentz has been playing like a leading MVP race candidate and the Eagles came into this game with a streak of eight consecutive games with 100+ rushing yards…all of this thanks largely to the guys up front. On Sunday night, the Eagles were faced with the league leader in sacks, DeMarcus Lawrence. He left empty handed.
“I don’t like to over-hype players, especially in the middle of the season, but Lane is playing great football.” Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said of the man who completely shut down the esteemed pass rusher. “I just can’t imagine there’s a better right tackle in the league. I can’t imagine there’s any tackle — if you add up the cumulative guys that he’s going to have to block by the time is year is over and their sacks, I mean, it’s unreal. This particular year — it’s not like this every year, but this particular year with the defenses that we play and the pass rushers that he’s facing and then to lose Jason Peters and then we’re giving extra help on the other side, and we go in and we say, are we going to give Lane help on Von Miller or are we going to let him go by himself, and he’s been unbelievable. He’s playing out of his mind.”
Johnson wasn’t the only player taking his game to another level against Dallas. Second year tackle Halapouliovaati Vaitai was exceptional on Sunday night. After a trial by fire one year ago, Vaitai has done an admirable job in filling in for one of the few Canton bound left tackles in the league.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s another one that’s just incrementally getting better and better and better. I’m calling less protection help to his side.” Doug Pederson said of his project lineman. “He’s just really coming into his own, and he’s trusting his instinct, trusting his skill, trusting his coaching. [Offensive line] Coach [Jeff] Stoutland and [Assistant offensive line/tight ends/run game coach] Eugene [Chung], they do a great job of getting him ready and all the guys ready each week, and he’s done a really nice job.”
With the Eagles doing all they can to keep Vaitai’s head above water, the athleticism across the line has been more valuable than ever. With Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks moving to the second level with ease, the offensive line is performing like a well oiled machine.
Against the Cowboys, a team that boasts an offensive line that has long sat atop the NFL, the Eagles rushed for their highest total yardage since 2014 and kept Wentz completely sack free. The Cowboys had to make some drastic changes after losing Tyron Smith and surrendering six sacks on the left hand side against the Falcons…but Vaitai has been just fine for the Eagles so far.
One of the most complete units in football, the Eagles offensive line may have finally pushed Dallas back a peg and they proved it on Sunday night with an absolutely incredible outing that demonstrated just how athletic and technically sound they’ve become. The scary part is? They’re just getting started.
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports