Let’s be frank. The Eagles have been one of the luckiest teams over the past 20 years when it comes to the Left Tackle position. 11 years of Pro-Bowl caliber play from Tra Thomas, and 11 years of Hall-of-Fame play from Jason Peters, have given the Eagles the chance to go from mediocre to Super Bowl contenders year in and year out. With Jason Peters gone, however, a massive question has opened up at the most important position along the offensive line.
Depending on who you ask, 2018 First Round pick, Andre Dillard had an average rookie season. He was awful at Right Tackle having to fill in for the injured Lane Johnson but had moments of really stunning play when replacing Peters at Left Tackle. There were concerns about his mental toughness and his overall strength but Eagle players, both past and present, don’t think he was as bad as people think.
If Dillard ends up being an excellent player, it’s great news for the Eagles. But do the Eagles really need Dillard to be elite?
While Jason Peters has played at an unbelievable level for the last decade, there’s evidence to show that if the Eagles want to be playing in February again, they don’t need their left tackle playing at an elite level.
|Before Jason Peters Injury:|
|After Jason Peters Injury (Including Playoffs):|
Even with Halapoulivaati Vaitai posting a below-average PFF grade of 39.1 throughout the season, the Eagles were still a top-five rushing team in the NFL and got the #1 seed in the NFC. If the Eagles were able to win the Super Bowl with a below-average Left Tackle, the need to have Dillard play at Peter’s level isn’t that necessary.
Doug Pederson also has a history of giving extra help to younger offensive linemen. In 2017, When Brent Celek was basically used as another offensive lineman, the Eagles were still able to be successful. The success of Dallas Goedert as a blocker and receiver will also help with Andre Dillard.
In the end, Dillard’s 2019 was not of a tremendous, other-worldly player but he wasn’t as bad as people really realize. Even Philly Sports Network’s Liam Jenkins & Thomas Petersen showed the spurts of solid play we should expect in year 2.
Using a first round pick on an offensive lineman is always tricky. You need to get the right investment out of a pick like that so if Dillard’s play is below-average it really will be disheartening.
We’ve already seen, however, that elite Left Tackle play isn’t going to be as much of a factor in determining how great the Eagles will be in the long run. If there’s any positional coach that would be able to get the most out of average play it’s Jeff Stoutland.
The Eagles, and Dillard, will be just fine.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports