‘Building from the ball out’ has been a focus for the Eagles since the beginning of the Doug Pederson era and for the third offseason in a row, the team’s front office moves reflected that. Jason Kelce returns to his Center role for one more year at least, and the Eagles made a conscious effort to retain the services of versatile lineman, Isaac Seumalo, who could one day be the heir to that throne, or remain the starting left guard. These moves were absolutely crucial for the Eagles, but there’s one player who could suddenly leap into the spotlight.
Brandon Brooks is recovering from an Achilles tear and it’s too early to begin speculating a potential return date. It is, however, a possibility that Brooks could miss the opening few weeks of the regular season, if not, training camp participation seems as though it could be limited at the very least.
With Seumalo currently listed as the team’s started left guard, they’re going to need an insurance policy ready to step up at a moments notice and this could prove to be the perfect audition. Jason Kelce was reportedly debating retirement this offseason and if he decides to hang up the boots within the next 24 months, it’s assumed that Seumalo shifts inside and the Eagles would then need to look at a starting left guard. But if there’s a player who can prove he can hold the fort on the other side, then continue to develop under Jeff Stoutland, that need may not be anywhere near as pressing when the time arises.
Enter 6’7, 338 lbs, versatile lineman, Matt Pryor. Drafted by the Eagles last year, Pryor played at every position along TCU’s offensive front during his tenure as a Horned-Frog, teaming up with 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 last year, 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.”
Pryor’s versatility and athletic game will play perfectly into his hands here, with the potential to step up to the plate after a year in the shadows working under Stoutland. Pryor, along with Mailata headline the next generation of linemen being groomed by the Eagles, with the culture of development remaining a clear priority for Howie Roseman.
“Last year we drafted two guys that we really were excited about drafting in Pryor and Jordan. Those were guys we knew we would develop and had the opportunity with our veteran offensive line to be able to do that.” Roseman told the Eagles website, while Doug Pederson echoed those same sentiments back in January:
“…we got a lot of confidence in some of our young players. We got [T] Jordan Mailata and [T Matt] Pryor, and of course Big V [T Halapoulivaati Vaitai] played a ton of snaps in his three years, and [OL] Isaac [Seumalo]. A lot of confidence there, too. This will be a big off-season for those guys.”
What we saw last season was Jordan Mailata, the infamous project tackle who had never played the sport of Football before last year, being taken under the wings of Jason Peters, arguably one of the best to ever play the position. This year, we may see Brandon Brooks, who is unable to participate as much as he’d like, really taking on a leadership role and helping Pryor with his development. Those kind of relationships can not only expedite growth, but really strengthen the bonds in a position group where chemistry is everything.
When you talk about the Eagles offensive line, you talk about the four Pro Bowlers, you talk about the dominance. But what many are failing to point out is that the next generation took a big step last year and with the uncertainty surrounding Brooks’ return, there’s a good chance that Pryor will see some regular season snaps…perhaps taking the first steps on his path to one day inheriting a starting position of his own.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Al Tielemans via AP