The Philadelphia football brand is one of aggressiveness, power and physicality. As the Eagles gear up for a matchup against the New York Jets, the position group that matches those three characteristics are the main reason the Eagles find themselves in the thick of the NFL Playoff race.
The offensive line has always been a strength of the Eagles. The 2021 version however, is the best OL we have seen in Philadelphia in a long, long time.
It’s crazy to think that not even a month ago, the Eagles were 2-5, looked abysmal in most of the games, and questions surrounded the coaching staff and QB. One month later and Nick Sirianni’s approach in the run game has changed the outlook of the franchise, and highlighted the biggest strength this team has in any matchup.
So long as the Eagles keep utilizing the run game, they’ll be in every game they play. And it’s something we haven’t seen in quite some time. Comparing to other great OL groups the Eagles have had, there’s a case to be made that this is the best group the franchise has ever had.
Let’s take a look back and compare just how good this current group has been.
Whether it was Artis Hicks, or Shawn Andrews, Hank Fraley or Jamal Jackson, the Eagles OL of the 2000’s was a unit that bullied opponents and was a big reason the franchise was so successful with limited skill positions.
The strength of the line was in the tackles however. Tra Thomas and John Runyan, two players inducted into the Eagles ring of honor this year, were the main catalysts to keeping McNabb upright, and it usually led to great results.
This 2021 Eagles line is even better than those groups though for a couple reasons. We can argue about Thomas or even Runyan getting into the Hall of Fame, the 2021 birds have two sure-fire HOF inductees playing right now. The 2000’s Eagles didn’t have a Jason Kelce or a Lane Johnson at their disposal.
Seriously, there’s not a single player in the 2000’s the Eagles had that could make this block.
Kelce has changed the way we view the Center position in football. And he’s a joy to watch in pancaking opponents when he’s using that athleticism to his advantage. Lane Johnson is also another big difference between the 2000 Eagles and now. As good as John Runyan was, there were plenty of times where players like Michael Strahan ate him alive. In 15 games, Strahan had 14 sacks.
Lane Johnson has seemed to always be tasked with blocking the opponents best pass rusher. He’s even better against the run.
Johnson and Kelce are the two main reasons that this current Eagles OL has the edge over the Andy Reid-OL. They are two future Hall of Famers, and two players beloved by the city of Philly.
I give the edge to the 2021 Eagles.
Chip Kelly’s 2013 Eagles
The 2013 Eagles led the NFL in rushing with the emergence of a new offense, QB and style of play. Evan Mathis and Jason Peters were All-Pro’s that year with dominant performances it seemed every week. There was a lot to like about this team.
The in-game performances were legendary. Over 200 yards rushing against the Lions and Bears, the NFL’s leading rusher that season. There’s a couple reasons why I would put THIS year’s OL above the 2013 version.
For starters, the 2013 Eagles had a lot more vets on the actual roster than this current team. Kelce and Johnson were young, but Todd Herramans had been starting for years, Peters and Mathis were well over 30, and there wasn’t a whole lot of depth at the position.
This current Eagles OL has already lost an All-Pro player in Brandon Brooks, has had to deal with Lane Johnson leaving for a few weeks and an injury to Isaac Seumalo and Jordan Mialata. And yet they just keep. pounding. away.
The 2013 Eagles were more of a passive team that was using speed and schematics to be able to run at will. The 2021 Eagles play bully ball, where they are going to run all day and run right through you if possible.
It’s a main reason I give the edge to the current unit.
2017 Championship Team
This was honestly the hardest one to compare. The main reason the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017 was because they were a top five rushing team, and used their dominant OL into the playoffs.
They also showed out their depth. Jason Peters was gone for the year after a few weeks so Big V had to take over and did a commendable job at that! Kelce, Johnson and Brooks were dominant on the right hand side and Stefan Wisniewski took over for Isaac Seumalo and helped hold up the OL together. They blew out some really good defenses all year like Denver, LA, and Carolina.
Two of the main differences, in my opinion, go to performance. The 2017 Eagles had to make a change at the beginning of the year because Seumalo was getting beat a ton early so Wisniewski came in to replace him.
The current OL hasn’t really been at that point. They’ve been pretty solid all year. Noone has been needed to be benched. In reality, the main similarity between the two groups was that at the beginning of the year, both Nick Siranni and Doug Pederson seemed to neglect the run, and then once they committed to it, the wins started piling up.
All seriousness, both groups are awesome, but I will put much more stock and credence to the Mailata/Dickerson left side, than the Big V/Wisniewski group in 2017.
Long Way to Go
Look, I’m not going to sit here and say this team is a Super Bowl contender yet. I have loved what I’ve seen from the offensive side of the ball, with most of that being because of the dominance of the OL. An injury here or there could definitely change things, but this has been an awesome start to the season. As the calendar shifts to December, and the games get colder, it’ll be important for the Eagles to continue their dominance in the trenches.
All seems to be well though on that end.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)