OTA’s are always an exciting period. With 90 players all vying to make strong impressions on the coaching staff, there is always bound to be plenty of surprises along the way. An early eyebrow raiser this year comes from an unlikely place, the offensive line.
Last season, the Eagles offensive front earned a reputation as the most dominant in the league. Things didn’t start off that way however. Isaac Seumalo and Chance Warmack were still justling over the starting left guard position two weeks into the regular season, until Doug Pederson decided to pull the trigger and place a far more reliable Stefen Wisniewski back on the front line.
It’s been a difficult start for the 2016 third round pick. Seumalo never really found his groove or opportunity as a rookie, although he did flash potential during limited snaps. In year two, he was unable to beat out Warmack as aforementioned after a long offseason duel, resulting in a year spent mostly in the shadows. Some brief spurts at tackle and rotations late in games that were headlined by an Aaron Donald highlight reel, she Seumalo play in a total of 25% of offensive snaps in his sophomore season. But then week 17 arrived.
Pederson announced prior to the game that the former Oregon standout would be playing at center during week 17, a move anticipated by many ever since his drafting in 2016. The versatile lineman was assumed to be the eventual heir to the throne at the center position, who has the ability to line up wherever the coaching staff need him to. This was our first real look at seeing Seumalo snap the ball.
Despite a few pass-blocking whiffs, Seumalo sailed through the game, leaving fans to question where he fit in to the team’s long term plans. Today, we may have finally found that answer. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro noted the following in his weekly column for Bleeding Green Nation:
“Nobody talks about Isaac Seumalo anymore, a sign of just how much he’s fallen after being, at this point a year ago, the starting left guard on the depth chart. Stefen Wisniewski has a stranglehold on that position, and the Eagles have moved Seumalo to the center position to back up Jason Kelce. This is intriguing. Seumalo is still a really good prospect. He’s big and strong and powerful. It’s going to be interesting to see how he fares at center this summer. Maybe he will blossom there.”
Seumalo has notably been taking reps at center during 7-on-7 drills in OTA workouts this offseason and now it appears as though the move to center will be a full-time commitment. So, why is this so important?
For starters, the Eagles brought in another offensive lineman with their 206th pick in this year’s draft, TCU’s Matt Pryor.
At 6’7, 332 lbs, Pryor’s versatility is what led him to the City of Brotherly Love, reuniting with former teammate and mentor, Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
“I came in as a tackle and the following year we were short on guards and my coach asked me to switch, so whatever was gonna help the team.” Pryor told me in a recent interview, recalling his days protecting quarterbacks such as Trevone Boykin and Kenny Hill. “I started two years at guard and in my senior year I switched between the two. I feel like I have the athletic ability to do both. Whatever was going to help the team is what I did.”
With Pryor’s physical prowess nor infused at the guard position, the Eagles were inundated with depth. Veteran Chance Warmack would not only be battling Seumalo, but the imposing Pryor and Stefen Wisniewski. This logjam forced Seumalo out of the equation and into no man’s land, until his versatility may have pushed his career in a new direction.
Now entering his third year, Seumalo will compete to line up behind Jason Kelce as the backup center. Not only does this give him a theoretically easier road to making the final 53-man roster, but will also utilize a slightly different skillset, without the pressure of potentially being depended upon straight away.
With time to learn under arguably the most athletic center in Football and hone his craft at a new position, the spotlight will be taken away from Seuamlo until such a time as he’s called up to the plate. While this is going on, the battle for the starting LG spot will rage on just as intensely as it did one year ago.
Versatility was always said to be Seumalo’s greatest strength. It may now be the one trait that has saved a career that has unfortunately fallen short of expectation.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports