After Brandon Brooks announced that he had torn his Achilles tendon earlier this week, discussions were ripe surrounding potential replacements. Brooks has proven he’s a borderline superhuman, but suffering the injury in June makes a heroic comeback for the upcoming season unrealistic. Replacing an elite guard certainly isn’t easy, but after Doug Pederson stated he’d be looking in-house first, some natural concern arose.
Matt Pryor, someone who saw prominent action in just three games last year, is the team’s current backup guard and a former sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft. He graded 18th out of 25 guards according to PFF in the wildcard round last year, his first start, and had played in a little over 70 snaps over the course of the season that preceded that game, performing adequately. Pryor’s lack or experience doesn’t fill casual fans with confidence, but one name should – Jeff Stoutland.
Since being named the Eagles offensive line coordinator in 2013, Stoutland has helped not only transform the unit into a machine of Pro Bowl accolades, all-pro honors, and elite play, but also helped groom some very notable names.
Isaac Seumalo, a product of the 2016 NFL Draft, took a few years to find his footing in the NFL, unable to beat out Chance Warmack or Stefen Wisniewski for a starting role. He kicked inside to center for a short while but when tasked with switching back, he shone. Seumalo ended 2019 as the team’s starting left guard, was given a new deal beforehand, allowing 5 sacks on 1,162 NFL snaps and playing as soundly as you could ask for.
Then, there’s Halapoulivaati Vaitai – a draftmate of Seumalo and former TCU mentor of Pryor. Despite being a fifth-round pick, Vaitai went on to start in over 50 games for the Philadelphia Eagles during his tenure due to injuries and suspensions. He grew into a serviceable backup who clearly deserved a starting role having helped the team win a Super Bowl back in 2017 and hold down the fort in key spots every season thereafter. Detroit were the team to give him that, offering $50M for his services over a five-year deal. That would not have happened without Stoutland’s development.
The list goes on. From Stefen Wisniewski who ended up departing to win a second Super Bowl ring, to overseeing the continued growth of proven talents such as Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, Stoutland has been a pivotal part in creating stability along the Eagles offensive front.
Jason Kelce was once a sixth-round pick too. When Jeff Stoutland arrived in 2013, Kelce, who was two years into his NFL career (sound familiar) started all 16 games and helped LeSean McCoy rush for a stunning 1,607 yards. He was also PFF’s highest-graded center and given the Ed Block Courage Award.
Pryor’s lack of game experience hurts him and losing an entire offseason of reps with the starters will absolutely be costly. But if you’re not ready to hang your hat on the TCU product just yet, you can certainly hang your it on the team’s run-game coordinator and offensive line coach. Someone who has helped the offensive line through two eras of Football, develop starting talent into elite talent and turn backups into starters. If there is ever a coach to prepare a young, versatile lineman for a season in the Sun, it’s Jeff Stoutland.
Mandatory photo Credit: Jerry Habraken, The News Journal via Imagn services