The dreaded NFL dead zone is upon us. Eagles training camp is over 30 days away and there won't be much going on between now and then. In the meantime, SB Nation's Danny Kelly is helping us power through tough times with some NFL positional rankings. We already looked at how he ranked the Eagles running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers. Kelly's latest rankings focus on the big dudes up front: the offensive line.
It's hard to imagine the Eagles would have had so much offensive success last season if not for the five guys blocking up front. Therefore it's no surprise to see the Eagles ranked in the ELITE group.
Philly has one of the best left tackle/left guard combinations in the NFL in All Pros Jason Peters and Evan Mathis, a duo that helped paved the way for NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy in 2013. Of course, center Jason Kelce had an outstanding year as well, Todd Herremans was serviceable at right guard, and Lane Johnson showed promise while taking his rookie lumps after being Chip Kelly's first pick at #4.
Incredibly, the five combined to play 5,426 of the Eagles' 5,520 offensive snaps in 2013, continuity enjoyed by few teams. This experience together in the line of fire is invaluable -- checks, communication, chemistry, and comfort --particularly for an offensive line unit that runs one of the highest-tempo and innovative offenses in the NFL. Going into 2014, assuming they can stay healthy, the Eagles figure to have one of the best lines in the league, and may be only getting better with the development of Lane on the right side. With Herremans the main question mark starter-wise, guys like Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde, and Karim Barton will vie for playing time. Overall, Chip Kelly has an athletic group well suited for his exciting offense.
Peters battled through a multitude of injuries in 2013 but still finished as one of the league's best tackles. Mathis was great as always. Kelce's athleticism allowed him to get out in space and make blocks down field. Herremans was up and down but finished the year better than he started it. Johnson took his lumps as a rookie but flashed potential at times and could really benefit from a full offseason of gaining muscle and developing. There's no doubting it's a great group. Beyond the starters, Allen Barbre seems like a capable backup at every position except backup center. As it stands the team is very thin behind Kelce.
The major concern with the Eagles offensive line is age. It's the second oldest in the NFL. Kelce and Johnson have plenty of tread on the tires but Peters, Mathis, and Herremans are all over 30. Philadelphia will have to come up with a way to find replacements for those players.
On a different note, I'd argue the Eagles have some very good non-OL blockers. Veteran tight end Brent Celek is strong and could be one of the best blocking TEs in the league. TE James Casey was also used as a blocker late in the season. Despite the loss of Jason Avant the Eagles figure to have some quality blocking WRs in Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, etc. RB LeSean McCoy probably isn't a standout blocker but he's the one getting touching the ball often anyway.
While the Eagles can be found all the way at the top, only one other NFC East squad made Kelly's 16 team list: the Dallas Cowboys. They're ranked under "Damn good." The New York Giants and Washington Redskins weren't even featured in the honorable mention.
So do the Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL? How about the best? Discuss.