Can the Eagles' offensive line continue it's dominance in 2014? Is Todd Herremans on the decline? Will the Eagles add some depth to the offensive line in free agency or the draft? Let's have a look.
This is part 5 of an 11 part series, this part will focus specifically on the offensive linemen on the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles and how the team can improve heading into the 2014 season. Each part will focus on a specific positional group with 11 in all (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, ILB, OLB, CB, S and ST [K, P, KR and PR]). Now let's talk Eagles' offensive linemen.
2013 Eagles' Offensive Linemen: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson. (David Molk, Julian Vandervelde, Michael Bamiro, Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin will also be discussed briefly)
How'd they do?
Jason Peters: Ranked the #4 overall offensive tackle and #4 overall left tackle according to Pro Football Focus.
After tearing his Achilles tendon twice in the offseason causing him to miss the entire 2012 season, Jason Peters was ready to return to his old self in 2013. His old self, of course, was the Pro Bowl caliber left tackle that many people believe is a top offensive tackle in the league. But 2013 was different than any other previous season, Peters was playing in a brand-new, no-huddle uptempo system under Chip Kelly. But somehow, Peters still went back to his dominant ways.
Peters started all 16 games, 17 including the playoffs, and dominated from start to finish. There was never a time where Peters really struggled which is very impressive considering it was a brand new system. Peters finished the season with two more accolades to add to his resume inclining first team All-Pro as well as being named a Pro Bowler for the sixth time in his career.
Following the season, Peters signed a five-year extension to hopefully finish his career in Philadelphia. As long as he's there, that left side of the offensive line will be in good hands.
Overall Grade: A+. Peters came back better than ever after missing the entire 2012 season. He was dominant throughout the entire season and looked like every bit of the Pro Bowl caliber tackle he once was.
Evan Mathis: Ranked the #1 overall guard according to Pro Football Focus.
Evan Mathis has been ranked the #1 overall guard every year, according to Pro Football Focus, since joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. This year was no different. Mathis was an absolute monster in the running game, totaling a run blocking grade of 40.2 according to Pro Football Focus. To put that in perspective, the next highest run blocking grade for a guard was 19.7 by fellow Eagles' guard Todd Herremans.
That means that Mathis was two times the run blocker that any other guard in the NFL was. He also did a great job as a pass blocker as well as getting out and blocking on the run in the screen game. Mathis finally received the recognition he deserved the past two seasons by being named to the All-Pro team as well as the Pro Bowl.
Overall Grade: A+. Mathis was the best guard in the entire NFL for the third year in a row and finally got the recognition he deserved in 2013.
Jason Kelce: Ranked the #1 center according to Pro Football Focus.
Jason Kelce was in a similar situation as Jason Peters was. He suffered a season ending injury in just week 2 of the 2012 season against the Baltimore Ravens, tearing both his MCL and ACL. Kelce was out for revenge in 2013 and looked like a man on a mission.
He was the key piece for the offensive line because in such a high tempo, no-huddle offense, he is relied upon to get the protection calls in much quicker than usual. Kelce excelled in the new scheme and was able to showoff his great athleticism. Kelce didn't receive the accolades that his fellow lineman did but he was rated the best center in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. He was also rewarded with a six-year extension following the season as well which made him one of the top paid centers in the league.
Overall Grade: A+. Sensing a trend here? The Eagles' offensive line was one of the top units in the league last year and Kelce's leadership and performance was a big reason why. He excelled in the uptempo offense and I expect him to only get better in the future.
Todd Herremans: Ranked the #26 overall guard and #14 right guard according to Pro Football Focus.
After playing left tackle, left guard and right tackle throughout his first seven seasons with the Eagles. Todd Herremans was set to play another position he has not played before and that was right guard. Herremans always played at his best as guard but he struggled a bit in 2013, mostly in pass protection.
Herremans was third to last with only New York Giants' David Diehl and Oakland Raiders' Lucas Nix ranked lower than him in terms of pass blocking at the guard position according to Pro Football Focus. Herremans has to improve as a pass blocker or he might be out of Philadelphia in a year or so.
His one saving grace could be his run blocking. He was the second best run blocking guard in the league according to Pro Football Focus. But that being said, he was the weak link on a rather strong offensive line and has to improve to stick around.
Overall Grade: B-. Herremans would get a much lower grade if it wasn't for his run blocking. He has to get better in the passing game because I believe Philadelphia may bring in his potential replacement this off-season.
Lane Johnson: Ranked the #39 overall offensive tackle and the #19 right tackle according to Pro Football Focus.
When Philadelphia picked Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, many believed it was a match made in heaven. The Eagles had a need at the tackle position and Johnson's freakish athleticism was perfect for Chip Kelly's uptempo offense.
Like any rookie, Johnson had his ups and downs. He looked shaky for the first half of the season and really struggled in pass protection. He allowed 10 sacks for the season, according to Pro Football Focus. But a majority of those came in the first half of the season.
As the season progressed, Johnson seemed to become more comfortable with the speed of the game and started to look the part of a fourth overall pick. Anybody following Johnson throughout the season could tell he has a ton of potential and should only improve in the future.
Overall Grade: B. He struggled to start the year but Johnson continued to get better as the season progressed and that's all you can really ask for from a rookie. Johnson is a natural fit for Kelly's offense and should be a top right tackle in a few years.
David Molk, Julian Vandervelde, Michael Bamiro, Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin are all currently signed to the Eagles' roster but I don't think any of them have guaranteed spots on the 2014 roster. Barbre was impressive in spot duty during the season so he'll likely return.
Vandervelde is versatile since he can play both center and guard but I believe he'll have to fight for a roster spot next season just like Molk and Tobin. Kelly showed promise when he started in 2012 but battled injuries and hardly saw the field in 2013. Bamiro is the real wild card because he has great size at 6-8, 335 lbs. but he has to show improved technique and fundamentals to make the roster in 2014.
Even though all of those linemen are on the Eagles' roster right now, I believe the team will be looking for some more depth to compete for spots in training. Now there are two routes they can take to address depth on the offensive line, free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft.
Although I believe it is more likely that the Eagles draft a young offensive linemen they can mold to their own system, there are some intriguing names out on the free agent market.
Uche Nwaneri was just released today by the Jacksonville Jaguars today. Although he'll be 30-years old by the start of the season, Nwaneri could be a solid addition to the Eagles' offensive line. He started all 16 games for the Jaguars last year at right guard. Nwaneri is the complete opposite of Herremans though because he excelled at pass blocking and struggled in run blocking. If he's open to being a reserve, Nwaneri might be a nice depth signing for the Eagles.
Mike Pollak is another interesting option. He started 5 games at right guard and 1 game at left guard for the Cincinnati Bengals this past season. Pollak was ranked the #29 overall guard and had a positive overall grade as well as a positive pass and screen blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus. As long as he's open to being a reserve, Pollak might be another solid signing for the Eagles.
2014 NFL Draft:
I do not believe the Eagles will spend an early pick on an offensive linemen, but if there is a player that they have high on their board available in the third round or later, I could see them snatching them up. Here is a pair of players I could see the Eagles potentially taking in that round three or lower range.
Furman's Dakota Dozier played left tackle all four years at college but many project that he will fit best as a guard at the next level. Dozier has good size at 6-4, 314 lbs. and is a very good athlete. He has the ability to move very well laterally which should help him as a guard since he will be asked to pull and make blocks down-field. Dozier actually played guard at the East-West Shrine Game and caught the attention of many scouts because of how well he did at the new position.
Alabama's Anthony Steen is another name that may stand out to the Eagles. Steen was a three year starter at right guard and the only senior starter on the offensive line this past season. Although he's a bit undersized at 6-3, 305 lbs., Steen is a lot stronger than his size may indicate. He is also a underrated athlete and can move very well. It also helps that Steen's former offensive line coach at Alabama, Jeff Stoutland, is now the offensive line coach for the Eagles. I'm sure both sides wouldn't mind a reunion in Philadelphia.
That's all for Evaluating the Eagles: Part 5, Offensive Linemen. Be sure to check out the rest of the series in the following days leading up to free agency!
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