The Philadelphia Eagles enter the bye week coming off of their most dramatic win of the season. In week 9, they beat the Dallas Cowboys, at home, 28-23 in an instant classic that came down to the final play of the game. There were a plethora of storylines and narratives to come out of the game, especially on the Eagles’ side.
One of the storylines from the game that’s flown under the radar is the play of rookie right guard, Tyler Steen. Sunday against Dallas was the 5th game he’s appeared in this season and the first start of his NFL career. This was by far the most Steen has played in any game and ended the day with mixed results.
The decision to have Steen start did not come without its controversy. He is the third player to start at right guard for the Eagles this year, due to various circumstances. Opening day starter Cam Jurgens went on IR but had his 21-day practice window opened before the game. There were rumors that he could have played but the Eagles decided it best to allow him an extra 2 weeks of rest.
Sua Opeta was the second option at guard but was injured during the Commanders game and hadn’t performed all that well during his opportunities and was benched for the Dallas game. The Eagles turned to the 3rd round rookie in Steen to try and fill the hole on the line.
Perhaps the best aspect of Steen’s performance was his play in the running game. Any players coached by Jeff Stoutland are seemingly able to hold their own in the running game, no matter how much experience they have, and Steen was no exception. He used his big 6’6” and 320-pound frame to overpower defenders and drive them back on their heels, allowing for more running lanes to open.
During the Kenneth Gainwell touchdown in the first quarter, Steen got the initial block at the line of scrimmage, allowing Gainwell to accelerate to the second level and into the end zone for six. PFF gave Steen a 66.3 run block rating, which is not elite by any stretch of the word, but is promising for a rookie in his first career start against a talented Dallas defense.
Steen, however, struggled mightily in the pass-blocking game. This is usually the element that’s harder for younger linemen to pick up on and Steen was no exception. In 35 pass block snaps, he allowed 6 QB pressures, 5 hurries, and 1 hit. He did not allow any sacks but he was consistently losing pass-blocking battles against quicker and more experienced defenders. Micah Parsons had one play in particular in the second half where he completely undressed Steen.
Micah Parsons exploded off the line and burst past Steen to immediately disrupt the Eagles’ play. He deserves a pass with this being his first start, but if he wants to be a long-term part of this offensive line, he needs to improve. PFF gave him a pass block grade of 13.2, which is atrocious, but leaves Steen with pretty much nowhere to go but up.
Another duty of the offensive line is to be available during special teams plays, like field goals and extra points. Shortly after his nice block on the Gainwell touchdown in the first quarter, Steen reversed some of that good fortune by getting a false start on Jake Elliot’s PAT. That is completely inexcusable but there is no doubt that it will be corrected by the coaching staff.
Steen also made perhaps the most important play of the day for the Eagles offensive in the 4th quarter. With time winding down and the offense trying to ice the game with a 1st down, AJ Brown and D’Andre Swift collided, causing Swift to fumble the ball. Steen just so happened to be in the area and ended up recovering the fumble, allowing the Eagles to retain possession and punt the ball. This forced Dallas to start their final drive at their 14-yard line, instead of the Eagles’ 42-yard line and made getting a game-winning touchdown much more difficult.
The Eagles’ rookie has a bright future
The Eagles are a team that’s built upon developing and maintaining a strong offensive line. With stalwarts like Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson getting older, it’s up to the next generation of linemen to keep the team’s identity. Tyler Steen was drafted to be a piece of the Eagles future offensive line and while he was not an All-Pro in his first start, he showed flashes of potential and was directly involved with helping the Eagles preserve their lead. With Cam Jurgens coming back sooner than later, Steen’s role is not fully known, but he should only continue to improve with time.
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