How the preseason opener impacted the Eagles offensive line

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason – Steelers at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles center Luke Juriga (74) sets up to block Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (92) during the preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 12, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles had an up-and-down showing in their first preseason game under Nick Sirianni. Of course, the focus will be on the play of Jalen Hurts, Quez Watkins and the flashier positions on the offence. However, there was a lot to derive from the performance of the offensive line.

The Steelers’ defensive line presents no small task and, just like in their Hall-of-Fame game against the Cowboys, brought pressure early and often against the Birds. With the starters only getting one or two series to show their stuff, the focus was on the backups for game one. Here are a few of the players that stood out and a few others that upped their stock.

The Starters

While it seems like a cop-out to mention this group as a whole, their standout performance shouldn’t be something we gloss over. The Eagles offensive line — *almost* healthy for the first time in what seems like forever — was dominant against a very talented Pittsburgh defensive line. There were a few times were Jalen Hurts was forced out of the pocket to make a throw, but to no fault of the offensive line. If everyone can stay injury-free throughout the season, the Eagles should have no issue fielding a top 5 OL, with the ceiling being even higher.

Sua Opeta

With Isaac Seumalo out of the lineup, many — including myself — thought Nate Herbig would be the heir apparent for the starting position in game one of the preseason. However, it was Opeta that took the field. Like the rest of the starting group, he held his own and then some. He was someone that OL Coach Jeff Stoutland mentioned more than once this off-season and it looks like his hard work has paid off. If there are any injuries at the guard position, the Eagles are in a good place.

Nate Herbig

Nate was opening up holes from the jump on Thursday night. Particularly, he blew open an inside zone run in which Kerryon Johnson fell forward for 10 yards. It could easily have been a larger gain had Kerryon not slipped. If Sua Opeta is to be the first guard off the bench on the left side, it is Herbig’s job to lose on the right.

It will be interesting to see if the Eagles continue to split the right and left side of the line throughout the preseason. Transitioning from a coaching staff that cross-trained their players at seemingly every position — I like this development going forward.

Landon Dickerson

Landon didn’t take the field on Thursday, but he saw his competition split snaps (12 each for Juriga and Pierschbacher). That bodes well for his role as the backup center. Perhaps the plan is to pencil Seumalo in as the backup center and fill his guard position instead, but just like with Opeta and Herbig — the Eagles coaching staff seems less willing to make their OL positionless than the past regime.

We have heard nothing but impressive words about Dickerson early on in his NFL career and this bodes well for his development. His success was never a question of ability, but availability. Seeing four different centers take snaps on Thursday seems to indicate that Dickerson is still the plan at the backup center position — which means his recovery must be progressing well.

Andre Dillard

His stock may not have went up as a starter, but with the way the backup tackles performed on Thursday night, Dillard’s value went from high to essential. Many, myself included, have seen the value of moving Dillard if he loses the starting job to Mailata (which seems likely, if not definite at this point).

The value of a first round tackle on the open market — especially one that moves like Dillard — could bring in a sweet haul for Philadelphia. However, his value as a backup tackle on a team with a long injury history is just as high. Jack Driscoll and Brett Toth look like they simply aren’t ready to step in, even though the former did start last season. Conversely, a lineup of Mailata > Dillard > Driscoll is impressive depth for any team. The Eagles understand the value of a steady backup tackle more than most.

Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire