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Prior to 2012, left tackle was a "sure thing" for the Philadelphia Eagles

Jim McIsaac

For the Philadelphia Eagles, top talent has been infused at the left tackle position for the longest time. During a 14 year span, the team featured Tra Thomas and Jason Peters at left tackle. The pair combined for six Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections during that time, making the position a serious strength for a team that was a perennial contender for years.

In 11 years with the team, Thomas only missed 10 games in 11 years, with his longest time off the field being six games in 2005 (only one of the three below .500 season the team had during the Andy Reid Era). During his tenure with the team, Thomas started 165 of 166 games, dating back to the Ray Rhodes Era (very good at drafting talent, not at coaching it). He made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team.

In the three seasons prior to his Achilles injury in 2012, Peters was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro in his first three seasons with the Eagles. The team traded the 28th overall pick (acquired from the Panthers) to the Bills to acquire the then-two-time Pro Bowler during the 2009 offseason, when Thomas signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. From 2009-2011, Peters appeared in and started 42 games. He missed six games with his biggest field drought being three games in 2010.

During the 14 year span, the left tackle position only needed to use its backup for a total of 16 games. The backups at left tackle featured guys like Todd Herremans, Winston Justice, and King Dunlap. For a nearly a decade and a half, the blindside was safe (even when Mike Vick moved into starter, Todd Herramens and Winston Justice had pretty good seasons).

In 2012, Peters went down with his injury and the team signed Demetress Bell to compete with King Dunlap to start at left tackle. Bell started 30 of 31 games that he appeared in during the 2009-2011 seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He missed 17 games, whether by injury or coach's decision, over that span. Meanwhile, Dunlap started in just 7 of 38 games over three seasons (he was active but did not play in his rookie season).

The results for 2012 were obviously not pleasant. Bell appeared in nine game and started five at right and left tackle. Dunlap started 12 of the 14 games he appeared in at right and left tackle. The position became a turnstile with Bell and the team could not sustain a solid running attack to the side that Dunlap was on.

This offseason, Peters, 31, is coming off two Achilles injuries and is getting paid a fortune over the remainder of his contract. While it is safe to say he will be the starting left tackle on opening day of 2013, there is no guarantee he will be the starter in 2014. The team needs a plan and needs to dedicate valuable resources to make the position the stalwart it once was. If you add Peters' age to Herremans (30, will turn 31 during 2013 season) and Evan Mathis (turns 32 during 2013 season), you realize the offensive line as a whole needs to start planning for the future. Even Danny Watkins (who is currently projected to start at right guard) is turning 29 in November.

So with the early picks the Eagles have in every round (except the 6th), they have plenty of ammunition to start building the future of the offensive line to protect its future "Franchise QB." Unless the Eagles want a repeat of the "build an offensive line in one summer" disaster of 2009, they will likely add future pieces in this draft. In 11 days, the Eagles may have a clearer vision of what the future of the line will look like and potentially, the future of the very important left tackle position.

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