After years of not getting the respect they deserve, the Eagles’ offensive line was finally met with titles such as ‘best front in the league’. Vindication at last for Jeff Stoutland and Doug Pederson, the Eagles offensive juggernaut had overcome setback after setback, showcasing their depth, athleticism and sheer strength at any given opportunity. The terrifying part is, that prowess won’t be fading anytime soon.
Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks and Jason Kelce are all contracted for at least five years, while Stefen Wisniewski and Jason Peters are both contracted long enough for developmental talent to marinate and grow into that role. The ethos for this team for quite some time now has been ‘build from the ball out’ and that hasn’t changed, even after a Super Bowl win.
The Eagles selected TCU’s Matt Pryor on day three of this year’s NFL Draft. A 6’7, 338 lbs, lineman who has the versatility to contribute in multiple areas, something he knows was a strength coming out of college.
“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 a few weeks back, 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.”
It may be a while before Pryor garners game experience, but that’s okay. Ageless wonder Jason Peters is intent on getting a ring and every year the same concerns arise, months before they’re demolished with yet more elite play from the future Hall of Famer. Injuries may have plagued Peters, but that won’t stop him from setting the tone this offseason.
“I just know Jason. I know his work ethic. He’s a Hall of Famer.” Doug Pederson told reporters on Wednesday. “He’s an attention-to-detail guy, and it’s just important to him. Football is important. He’s the type of player that doesn’t want to go out through an injury. He wants to come back and prove that he’s stronger and better than ever, and he’s done that this off-season, and of course during and since his surgery.”
Not only is he getting better physically, but Peters notably spent huge periods of time working with Halapoulivaati Vaitai during his first two years in the league, along with recently drafted Jordan Mailata and even Derek Barnett. As far as a role model goes, it’s hard to come up with a more perfect prototype.
Talking of Pryor’s former TCU teammate and mentor, Vaitai himself had an outstanding campaign. One season on from his trial by fire, he was thrown into the deep end once again on the other side of the field, filling in for Jason Peters. Ultimately, Vaitai’s game was molded by his experience and he only improved as the season progressed, leaving the Eagles in a position of luxury.
“That’s one of the things you love about Coach Stoutland [Offensive line/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland], the fact that he teaches the starters, but he’s also teaching the young players and teaching them — and really preparing them to start, and that’s what we do at all the positions.” Pederson explained. “But one of the things, I think, in V’s case is that he’s played and he’s played a lot of games his first two years, and he’s a starter. He’s a starting-caliber tackle. Obviously, he’s proven it on both sides.
Great to have, great situation to have depth there. You can plug him in on both sides, get him the proper work, and he’s proven to handle it. He’s young, he understands his role, and we’re excited that he’s here.”
Stoutland is very much the glue that not just keeps a group of Pro Bowl linemen together, but makes them stronger. Since his days at Alabama, Stoutland has cultivated an incredible coaching career that sees him revered as one of the top positional coaches in football. From being relatable for players, to pushing players such as Jordan Mailata to their limit, Stoutland has built a culture in Philadelphia that encourages players to lead in the way he does. To work with teammates after practice and to drive them to be better players and better people.
“I’d heard a lot of great things about him, and really for me, it was just — when I got on the ground here I had that conversation with him and just talked to him to get a feel, and he and I hit it off right away.” Pederson said of his first impressions of his newly promoted run-game coordinator. “And just knowing that offensive coordinator and really run game, my offensive line coach are two very important positions on offense. Just spending time with him that day, I knew that the offensive line was well taken care of. And really for me it was about simplicity, too, keeping things simple. We didn’t have to come up with a lot of new schemes and terminology, and it was just a great fit from day one.”
Since joining the team in 2013, Stoutland has been responsible for nurturing the dependable talent brought in by the Eagles front office. The trenches are well and truly built, but that didn’t stop them double dipping in this year’s draft, adding a new mold of versatile and malleable talent to learn behind proven veterans in the hopes that they will be the next Lion to take over the Animal Kingdom.
‘Building from the ball out’ is more than just an ethos for front office drafting, it’s a culture. One that sees players become leaders and leaders become elite at their position. A culture that encourages individual growth as much as the unified position, adopting a ‘whatever helps the team’ mentality. The scary, scary part is…the Eagles have all five starters contracted for at LEAST another 3 years, with the entire right side contracted for a minimum of five. In that time, the next generation of Eagles linemen will be plucking away, honing their skills and preparing to their jump to the next level.
If you think the Eagles offensive front is dominant now, just wait…
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports