What the first eight games of the season mean for Eagles tackle Andre Dillard

PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 24: Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Tackle Andre Dillard (77) waits for the snap during the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Philadelphia Eagles on November 24, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA.(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Back in 2019, Howie Roseman and the Eagles decided to throw a bit of a surprise in the first round as they drafted LT Andre Dillard out of Washington State in the hopes that they had found their heir to the Jason Peters throne. We’re now a year and a half into Dillard’s NFL career and it hasn’t gone exactly as many expected.

The Story So Far… 

After being drafted in 2019 in the first round, the Eagles put a statement out to Philly fans that they’ve found the guy to replace Eagles legendary left tackle Jason Peters, whose contract was up after the conclusion of the 2019 season. 

For the most part, everyone was expecting Dillard to redshirt his rookie year with the Eagles and learn from Jason Peters at every opportunity they could create. An injury to the future Hall of Famer pushed Dillard into the spotlight, where he appeared relatively comfortable…that was until injuries to the right side forced him to slide to the opposite side of the line against Seattle.

To say the least, Dillard played pretty badly and the hype surrounding him took a massive hit, especially given the fact that Peters still found himself as the starting left tackle as the season went on and he returned from injury.

Fast forward to this past offseason and reports came out that the Eagles were letting Peters test free agency and that meant one thing for Dillard – it was his time to shine. It was time to put the right tackle horror show behind him and show the fans why he was drafted in the first round 12 months prior.  

In training camp, there weren’t many reassuring reports with regards to his development. Joe Ostman and Josh Sweat had their way all Summer long, and so did a stroke of bad luck. Andre Dillard suffered a season-ending bicep injury and the Eagles brought Jason Peters back to play the position, although it was originally thought Peters would convert to guard to fill in for Brandon Brooks, who went down with a season ending injury before camp had a chance to even start. Just as things were looking up for the young tackle, a promising second season was ripped away from him and the old King was back in town.  

As everyone knows, Peters was eventually moved back to left tackle, played horrifically like most thought he would, and then got injured, another event that many predicted. So, it was finally time for the Australian project himself, Jordan Mailata, to finally see the field and show everyone the progress he’s made over the past 3 years and that’s exactly what he’s been doing against some very good defenses like Baltimore and Pittsburgh. 

So where does this leave Dillard? 

The Next Chapter… 

There are multiple ways in which the next chapter in Andre Dillard’s story can be written. If Jordan Mailata keeps impressing for the rest of the season at left tackle (Which seemed likely before Jason Peters came back from injury and has taken the left tackle role again, leaving Mailata on the right side of the line) then the Eagles may well leave it to a Training Camp battle to see who gives them the most upside at the position. 

If Mailata struggles for the rest of the season, something that may happen given he’s only played football for 3 years on a training field and was a former 7th rounder, then Dillard can walk straight back into the starting line and prove, like he should have this season, why the Eagles picked him the first place. 

Another option the Eagles have, depending on the outcome of Mailata’s season, is to convert Andre Dillard into a swing lineman, meaning that the Eagles basically turn him into an Isaac Seumalo type player and a guy they keep in their back pocket in case the Eagles injury curse hits during a game or practice. The only issue with that option is that you don’t want a former 1st rounder sitting on the bench and waiting for a chance to see the field.  

The final option is to trade Dillard next offseason when you’ve seen Mailata for a full season and Dillard has recovered from his bicep injury. I really do not like this option, given you’re relying on a guy like Mailata to play well next season too, but it is plausible. Tackle depth in next year’s draft class will be questionable due to the COVID situation, potentially adding significant value for the young left tackle. Given the emergence of Jack Driscoll from this years’ draft class, a guy who can pretty much play anywhere on the line, and Mailata playing well so far, it may leave Dillard at the back of the queue. 

Realistically, and this is what everyone should be hoping for, the Eagles will get to next season with Andre Dillard full healthy and starting at left tackle, with Jason Peters out of Philly for good (well, I hope so) and Mailata as a potential swing lineman himself behind Lane Johnson. The Eagles shouldn’t be thinking about moving on from the 2019 1st rounder, it should never come to that at all. 

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire