When thinking about the offensive line last year, it’s all too easy to remember that Jamon Brown game, an endless slurry of sacks, and the 14 different combinations scrambled together amidst an awful injury crisis. Lost in all of the negativity though is the rise of a player who could go on to have a significant role in the offense one day. That man is Nate Herbig.
The Philadelphia Eagles tweeted a Happy Birthday message to Herbig on Saturday morning, reminding everyone just how young he really is. The Stanford product has just turned 23-years-old and is entering his third NFL season. Not only that, but due to the carnage witnessed last season, he already has 12 starts to his name…and made the most of them.
Through the opening eight games of the season, he was one of only four Eagles to play in every single offensive snap.The former UDFA garnered a PFF grade of 71.2 last year in 894 snaps, giving up only two sacks in that time. This is beyond impressive if you consider that before that, Herbig was merely seen as a fringe player developing so far away from the spotlight that it was almost easy to forget he was in the picture.
Herbig didn’t just prove that he was a capable starter last year, but a versatile one. He ended up playing at right guard during seven of his starts, and the remaining five on the left. What’s really interesting is that he played a from weeks 3-6 at left guard before moving back over to the right for a week 7 win over the Giants. Carson Wentz was sacked only 3 times in that game, the joint-lowest total of the season.
Herbig took a four-week stint on the left and moved to the opposite side like it was nothing, playing against a Giants defensive line which was easily one of the team’s few bright spots that season. PFF gave him a 61.4 overall grade for the game, with a 63.9 mark in pass-protection. All things considered, that’s about as good as one could possibly ask for.
The future looks bright for Herbig, and it’s only getting brighter with time. Brandon Brooks may well be one of the best interior linemen in the league, but with Achilles tears in back-to-back seasons and a contract that balloons in value after this season despite the recent restructure, there’s a chance that the Eagles may have to bid goodbye to one of their most beloved players.
On the inside, there’s another opportunity opening. Jason Kelce’s NFL career might well be nearing an end. The Eagles did draft Landon Dickerson this offseason, but he’s another versatile guard who brings way more athleticism to the table than Herbig. It might be that the Eagles see Dickerson as a right guard and would like to trial Herbig at center, another area where he also has experience playing.
Over the past five years, the Eagles have really become a factory for developing offensive lineman. Jordan Mailata may be the most famous name, but let’s not forget Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai both becoming serviceable starters, along with a myriad of unproven names who have been able to hold the fort during injury meltdowns thanks to the knowledge and coaching ability of Jeff Stoutland – one of the best OL coaches in the league.
While his path may not be clear and could very easily go down several paths, it looks as though the Eagles do have something in Nate Herbig and that he could be poised to become the latest in an growing line of players to go into the offensive line room as an underdog and come out of it as a polished starter.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire