Coming into the 2008 season, one of the major questions that ran wild through training camp was the mysterious situation that kept Shawn Andrews out of camp. Later, we would discover that Andrews was battling depression and some low-tone mumblings surfaced about possible retirement. Eventually that talk was shelved, Andrews made it to camp, and proceeded to prep for the upcoming season. Things seemed on the par, until the second game of the season against Dallas when he injured his back. The following months would result in numerous back surgeries, cross country flights, and constant question about both his physical and mental state. Oddly enough, he was never actually placed on IR, and had the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl, there was an outside chance for his return.
Leading into the offseason, we have numerous questions along the offensive line. We have some questions regarding what route to take at center, but our most pressing concern is at offensive tackle. Aging veterans Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas are both free agents in just over three weeks, and the smart money is that only one returns; if that. There are schools of thought that see us moving hard on Pathers' FA Jordan Gross and others that point toward the draft for replacements. The Shawn Andrews situation will weigh heavily upon our FA and drafting approach.
The one positive that came out Andrews' absense is the relative emergence of not one, but two linemen. Initally Max Jean-Gilles was tapped to fill the void, and did an extremely admirable job until he too was sidelined late in the season. At this point, Nick Cole was slated for some immediate, crunch time action, and again he performed extremely well. If anything, our unproven backups got valuable playing time and showed that they could cut it. Andrews is still our key though; as he under contract through 2015 and can play both guard and tackle.
"I'm an athlete," Andrews said at the end of the  season. "I've played tackle before. Of course, it's different from college to the professional level, but it's still tackle. There are a lot of guys that play the position that are just brute athletes and just being an athlete alone can help you take care of quicker defensive ends that are stronger nowadays in the NFL."
If we are assured of Andrews' return, it could completely alter how we approach this offseason. If the FO feels relatively comfortable that we can count on his presence, not only this year, but long term, then it opens many more doors. Given our current battery of, now experienced, backups, a big OT signing could cement this relatively young line for a long time. If we were to sign Jordan Gross, I would probably feel relatively comfortable loosing both Runyan and Thomas, moving Andrews to tackle, and starting Jean-Gilles. This would free up our early picks in the draft to be used on other areas, and allow us to grab depth on the offensive line later on.
At this point, I'm confident that Shawn Andrews will be physically ready to go by camp, but what concerns me is his mental state. This is a game that you must play focused and at full speed or not at all. Depression is a tough opponent; so where's his head at right now.
"I'm very excited about where I feel I'm going to be and where I'm going to get myself to," Andrews said. "I have a whole new attitude about everything right now. It's going to be a brand new attitude and a brand new me."
The goal for Andrews in the off-season is to get himself back in playing shape and to be prepared mentally for the rigors of a tough NFL season.
"First of all, I have to get myself all the way back 100 percent healthy and sturdy and then I have to bring my mental aspect of the game with me," Andrews said. "Just come back with a different attitude, way different than what I had last year and, like I said, I'm a new being and (I have) a new state-of-mind and I just have to come with that everyday."
Well, these recent quotes are a complete one eighty from the ones that were coming out of the Andrews camp only 6 months ago. This will be a situation with huge implications that can honestly effect the shape of our line for the next 5+ years.