With the long wait for Training Camp now upon us, I decided it was time to take stock of the current Eagles roster. More importantly, the players whose presence will be the most important in challenging for a second Super Bowl berth in three years.
It’s hard to find a solid starting block for this series, but there may be no foundation as solid as ‘The Bodyguard’ himself, Jason peters, who comes in at number 10.
Peters is coming off his tenth season as a Philadelphia Eagle as he continues his Hall of Fame career at the age of 37. He returned from a torn ACL that he suffered in 2017 to play in a stunning 79% of offensive snaps last year and do so at a ridiculously high level. There are few who can play at the level Peters can, but the question has always been one of durability.
And this is where his importance comes into play. The Eagles made all the right moves this offseason when it came to the tackle position. Jason Peters restructured his contract, which in itself feels like a revelation, and the team then drafted an eventual heir to his throne, spending a first-round pick on Andre Dillard.
Dillard comes in at 6’5, 306 lbs, but lacked the desired length in his frame coming out of Wazzou. Although there are some clear fundamental setbacks in terms of his hand placement etc as of right now, he plays hard and is extremely athletic for his size and weight which is something Stoutland would covet. He’s a very raw prospect who gets bullied by bull-rushes and doesn’t have much to counter sheer power, but his athleticism could be invaluable and all of his weaknesses are coachable to a point where if improved, we could be looking at an elite starting tackle in years to come.
But as of right now, if Jason Peters does go down with injury, the Eagles would be in a hesitant position. Halapoulivaati Vaitai has proven himself serviceable, but his long-term home may well be at guard, where he is now cross-training, receiving first-team reps over Stefen Wisniewski in the spring. And if Dillard isn’t quite ready to hit the ground running (although it wouldn’t be disastrous), the Eagles could find themselves in a tricky spot.
That’s why not only is it super important that Peters and his elite level of play can carve out one more season, but just like Jason Peters always has done, he mentors the younger guys and helps nurture their development and transition to the pros.
Peters has long been known as the type of leader to spend time after practice with the younger guys and doing all he can to expedite their growth.
“It’s just a huge honor to be on the same team as a great veteran player like that.” Dillard explained after being drafted. “I’m looking forward to competing with him, getting better with him and learning a lot from him and everybody else there.”
The Eagles now have all five starters on their offensive line returning in 2019. That’s astounding considering just how much uncertainty there was surrounding Stoutland’s unit just a matter of weeks ago. From the Brandon Brooks Achilles tear, to Kelce’s potential retirement and the huge cap hit and age darkening Peters’ future, the Eagles have somehow found a way to sustain one of the league’s most dominant offensive fronts. But if Jason Peters down and Vaitai does indeed move to guard full-time, that leaves Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata to carry the load.
When healthy, Peters has done an amazing job protecting the blindside of Carson Wentz and it’s fair to expect that same level of alien-like play next year. But his impact goes far beyond making plays on the field. That’s why he comes in at number 10 on this list. Peters isn’t just responsible for the sustaining the dominance coached by Jeff Stoutland, but ensuring that the passing of the torch is a smooth one.