Anyone who followed the Eagles at all last year recognizes the number one off-season priority for them is addressing the right side of the offensive line. Jason Peters and Todd Herremans did a really nice job last year, in both the running game, and the passing game, but after those two, there was nothing to get exited about when It came to the Eagles Offensive line. In an ideal world, Jamaal Jackson comes back and plays an entire season healthy at the center position, Mike McGlynn gets shifted over to his natural position of Right Guard, and Winston Justice lives up to his potential in the new Howard Mudd blocking schemes…In an ideal world. Truth none of these things can be counted on with much confidence.
Jackson went down in the Denver Game in 2009 with a torn ACL, and in 2010 his season ended week one with a torn bicep. The center position is one of the most underrated in football, don’t believe me? look at the Eagles offensive numbers the last ten quarters of the 2009 season. The Eagles managed to score just 17 points total, 7 of which came on a trick play from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin. Jamaal Jackson’s health has to be a big concern for 2011, he will be 31 years old at the start of next season, coming off a serious knee injury and a serious arm injury in the span of 20 months. As upsetting to Eagles fans as it might be, there is a very real chance that Jackson is breaking down, and if he can make it through a season healthy, he may not have but a few more left in the tank.
I actually particularly like the idea of moving Mike McGlynn over to the Right Guard position; he’s more of a natural fit there. McGlynn did an admirable job filling in for the injured Jackson last year, but he struggled in Blitz pick up nearly as much as Michael Vick did, and I don’t believe McGlynn can be a top 10-15 center in the NFL. McGlynn at guard might be a hidden gem on this Eagles roster though. At 6’4 320 he has the size, and he supposedly has a nasty streak too him; Andy Reid even went so far as to call him, “a dirt bag” high praise for an Offensive Lineman. McGlynn will do fine in the run game, but his experience at Center should help the pass protection at the RG position immensely. Although McGlynn wasn’t great at Blitz pick up, he wasn’t terrible, and with a true Center handling blitz pick up and protection calls McGlynn will just be a nasty Guard with average Center’s eyes. His center experience could make him one of the more intelligent Right Guards in the NFL. The value of having skill set at Guard combined with Howard Mudd’s teaching could give the Eagles something special at the position.
The big question for the Eagles O-line as of recent seems to have been, “what should they do with Winston Justice?” It seems like everyone is clamoring for the Eagles to draft Gabe Carimi and dump Justice because of the playoff benching he received vs. Green Bay to end last season. I think everyone may be getting a little to far ahead of themselves. Justice was the 39th overall pick in the 2006 draft, he is 6’6 320, and played at USC. He seems to have all the talent; he just hasn’t put it all together yet. Howard Mudd will certainly like what Justice brings to the table athletically, what O-line coach wouldn’t? It seems like a reasonable assumption that Mudd will try to turn Justice into an elite Right Tackle this upcoming season, and If Justice doesn’t improve then the Eagles would consider cutting ties with him after next season. Justice also just had what the team described as, “a minor knee surgery” after the season, meaning his injury had to play a factor in his struggles late in the season. The Eagles gave Shawn Andrews multiple opportunities before they let him go, why would they replace Justice with their first round pick after arguably the best pass rusher in the league in Clay Matthews made Justice, on a bad knee, look bad, Clay made plenty of healthy Right Tackles look bad last season. I think the general notion that the Eagles need to take a future RT in the first round this year to keep Vick safe is slightly off, they need a RG solution now, and possibly a RT solution next season.
I don’t think the Eagles should draft Gabe Carimi unless they think that he is the best fit at Right Guard available, and that they think Jamal Jackson will remain healthy, or that Mike McGlynn can be the answer at center. With the 23rd Pick in the 2011 draft the Eagles should select Mike Pouncey, C/OG, Florida, the twin brother of Steelers Center Marquice Pouncey, Pouncey is projected to be the best interior lineman in the draft, but he says he wants to play Center like he did this past season at Florida, and follow in his brother’s footsteps. If Mike Pouncey can play Center anywhere near the level of his twin then he would be an outstanding pickup. Look what Marquice did too the Steelers awful line from ‘09 with a mobile quarterback, not to mention the Steelers lost both of their starting Tackles early this season. If Jamaal Jackson is healthy, Pouncey can be a mauler at Right Guard, if Jackson isn’t healthy; you play Pouncey at center, and move Mike McGlynn to guard. A line left to right of Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Mike Pouncey, Mike McGlynn, and Winston Justice in a Howard Mudd protection scheme should be able to keep “Starship 7” much cleaner…what a horrible nickname Gruden.