With one half of the NFL regular season in the books, it’s safe to say the Eagles offensive line hasn’t been drawing the praise it was one year ago. The 63 quarterback hits allowed by the Stoutland’s group is more than 30 other NFL teams, while their 26 sacks rank them as low as 26th in the NFL. The run game has also struggled to find an identity and that can partly be put on the shoulders of the offensive front. However, when the line faced its greatest challenge all year in unknown territory, they stepped up.
It took just two plays for Jason Kelce to limp off the field in London, sending an Erie silence around a rampant Wembley stadium. You don’t need to tell an Eagles fan how important Kelce is to the success of the offense and against a Jaguars defense that was allowing 179 passing yards per game, less than any other team in the league, that loss could hurt.
Kelce returned to the game shortly after, but things went from bad to worse. Both Jason Peters and Lane Johnson were taken out of the game. Johnson reportedly tore his MCL, while Jason Peters was able to come back into action later.
This left the Eagles in a tough spot. Within a matter of seconds, their line went from one of the most intimidating in Football, to a backup tackle, a backup guard and a versatile guard who has struggled to find his footing since being drafted in the third round, suddenly playing at tackle. The shuffle that saw Vaitai, Wisniewski and Seumalo all take the fold left a sense of worry in the hearts of fans, but that was soon replaced with an eyebrow raise. For the first time all year, the above names held their own in unison and it helped spark the Eagles offense.
“Gosh, Lane [RT Lane Johnson] goes down early in the game, basically on the first series of the game he is down, so Big V [Vaitai] is in there.” Doug Pederson explained. “Then J.P. [LT Jason Peters] comes out [later in the game]. It’s a credit to the player and then it’s a credit to Coach Stoutland [offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland] and Eugene [assistant offensive line/tight ends/run game coach Eugene Chung] and the guys for getting the next guy ready to go each week.
It has been impressive to watch that whole thing take shape. Because [against the Jaguars, starting left guard] Isaac [Seumalo] is out there playing right tackle, and he took no right tackle reps during the week, and now he’s playing right tackle, and then he has to go back and play left guard. Then Wiz [Wisniewski] is in in the game [at left guard when Isaac is at right tackle]. Then Big V is in the game and finishes at right tackle [after moving over to left tackle in the middle of the game].
So with these guys, it’s important to have flexibility and versatility there. We know that J.P. is a left tackle, we know [Jason] Kelce is a center, we know Lane [Johnson] is a right tackle, Brandon Brooks is your right guard, but to have those swing guys is so valuable and it paid off for us in the game”
Not only that, but when Jason Peters re-entered the game, he allowed a total of 0 pressures in 25 pass-blocking snaps against the almighty ‘Sacksonville’.
This was a worst case scenario for the Eagles. Losing both tackles in the same game and forced to rely on the versatility of players who have yet to really prove themselves worthy of a starting role, you couldn’t pick a worse game for this situation to transpire. But somehow, the unit found a way. They maintained their blocks, were fundamentally sound and peculiar penalties were eradicated. This was a complete showing from an offensive line that desperately needed it while the world was insistent on ripping it from them.
After half a season of instability, concern and criticism, the Eagles offensive line bounced back against arguably the league’s most dangerous defense and did so with some severe setbacks along the way. This can only bode well as the team ride into the bye ahead of a clash with Dallas.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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