For over two decades the strength of the Eagles offense was held in their offensive line. Spoiled by All-Pro’s and and transformative talents, the Eagles come into the 2021 season with the OL still as their biggest strength, even after a very questionable 2020 campaign.
In 2020, five perceived starters on the OL were placed on IR and fourteen different combinations took the field. A position group once thought to be an impenetrable force saw it’s talent get older, and more prone to injury. As we look ahead to training camp, here’s what you need to know about Jeff Stoutland’s crew.
Switch out Dillard for Mailata however you want. Going into training camp that is 100% a position battle.
Outside of the question marks that surround the Head Coach, and Quarterback, the position battle for the Left Tackle spot will be the question during training camp offensively.
Who starts at LT?
A position that Philadelphia Eagles fans have been spoiled for over two decades of All-Pro/Hall of Fame talent is now something that must be watched attentively.
In a disaster season of 2020, Mailata’s play was one of the very few bright spots on the team.
Why he was benched for a few games for an old and injured Jason Peters was one of many questions that Doug Pederson and the previous coaching staff were unable to successfully answer. From Week 11 onward, he was graded in the top 15 of offensive tackles by PFF.
When he was in the game, Mailata made his presence felt. For a 7th round pick in 2018, with zero experience of the game of football coming into the draft process, what Stoutland has done to mold Mailata into a very good tackle is highly impressive.
Andre Dillard on the other hand has the “being a first round pick” moniker on his belt as he enters Year Three. It’s been a very difficult first couple of years for the Washington State product. In his rookie season, the coaching staff put him new and difficult positions.
His sophomore season didn’t even begin. He suffered a torn biceps in training camp that cost him last season.
While the word around minicamp was that Dillard has been excellent, there is no denying that this position battle will be one of the most talked about training camp storylines in Philadelphia.
Age/Health is a concern
One of the largest reasons the Eagles struggled in 2020 was because of the play of their OL. All-Pro Brandon Brooks was out for the year, and Pro Bowl RT Lane Johnson was trying to play on an injured ankle until he ultimately went on IR.
Three of the Eagles seven oldest players reside on the right side of their offensive line. Jason Kelce, Brooks and Johnson are all fan favorites in Philly. But the durability question has begun to rear it’s ugly head.
As good as Brooks has been, he has suffered two season ending injuries in less than a year.
As good as Johnson has been, he hasn’t played in over 14 games since 2018.
There have also been questions about Kelce potentially retiring this offseason, and that will only grow louder after this season is done. Johnson is tied to the Eagles until 2025. Brooks’ contract has an out in 2022.
We can talk about the youth of the Eagles offensive line all we want. Brooks, Kelce and Johnson all carry themselves as the proven leaders and veteran’s on this OL. They also carry enormous questions in training camp.
The Youth Movement
After fielding one of the oldest rosters in the game the last couple of years, the Eagles have begun shedding the weight and age off their Super Bowl roster.
Driscoll wasn’t too bad as a rookie RT and showed flashes when called upon to fill in for multiple positions when he was healthy.
Nate Herbig was highly impressive last season. In terms of players to get excited about heading into training camp, he’s right up there with Mailata.
The Eagles also drafted Alabama lineman, Landon Dickerson in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He is still looking to come back from a torn ACL that cost him the end of his college career and has a worrying history of injuries but there is no denying the overall talent.
If Baldy is giddy over an OL prospect, there’s reason to be excited for him.
The youth movement is clearly in full swing in Philadelphia. How the young bucks develop in training camp will be one of the bigger storylines to watch.
In Stoutland We Trust
Mike Munchak. Dante Scarnecchia. Jeff Stoutland.
The three best offensive line coaches of the last 20 years and the Eagles have been lucky to call one of them theirs for quire some time now.
One of the only coaches to survive the Eagles coaching purge this offseason, Stoutland is the one coach in Philly with little to no questions surrounding him.
Everyone is confident in his ability to get the best out of the OL. Everyone trusts his ability to develop diamonds in the rough at the position.
Jason Kelce was a mid-round pick and developed into a potential Hall of Fame Center. Mailata and Herbig’s development has been great to see. Heck he turned Brandon Brooks from a good player, to one of the best guards in football.
The Eagles have a ton of questions surrounding a very young, and unproven coaching staff. None of them center around Jeff Stoutland and his work for the Eagles OL. As long as he is around, the expectation will remain the same. The Eagles offense will pivot on its offensive line.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire