Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2014 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Friday, July 25th. The entire Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. Today we look at the offensive line. [QB] [RB] [WR] [TE]
The Philadelphia Eagles arguably have one of the best offensive lines, if not the best, in the NFL when healthy. The only problem is that it's also the second oldest line in the NFL. Three of the five starters are 31 or older. A decline in performance for players like Jason Peters (32), Evan Mathis (32), and Todd Herremans (31) could be soon approaching. Elsewhere, depth is an issue, and even more so with the suspension of Lane Johnson for the first four games of the 2014 season. The backup center spot behind starter Jason Kelce looks especially thin.
It looks like a boom or bust year for this offensive line. Best case scenario, everyone will stay relatively healthy and they'll easily be a top unit just like they were in 2013. If injuries and age occur faster than expected, things could go downhill in a hurry.
OT: Jason Peters, Lane Johnson (four game suspension), Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, Dennis Kelly, Michael Bamiro, Kevin Graf
OG: Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans, Karim Barton, Donald Hawkins, Josh Andrews
C: Jason Kelce, Julian Vandervelde, David Molk
Starting left tackle Jason Peters played through injuries last season and still looked great. He wasn't quite the Peters of 2011 (prior to the achilles injury in 2012) but he was still dominant at times.
There's been talk that starting left guard Evan Mathis could still hold out for a new contract but I'm not so sure. Why would Mathis risk injury during the team's voluntary spring practices only to hold out for more money later? I'm assuming Mathis will honor his deal and have another Pro Bowl worthy season at LG.
The contract extension that Jason Kelce earned this offseason was well-deserved. He's one of the most underrated players on the Eagles' roster (from a national level, at least) and he's probably one of the best at his position.
Starting right guard Todd Herremans is coming off a season where he even admitted he was a little uncomfortable at first due to healing from an injury and making a position change. Herremans semed to play better as the season went on and he's looking to carry that over into 2014.
The Eagles will likely start out the season with Allen Barbre at right tackle. Barbre is filling in for a suspended Lane Johnson. Barbre showed ability in preseason last year and then held his own while filling for an injured Jason Peters against the Packers.
The suspended Lane Johnson (side note: the suspension hasn't been officially confirmed yet but all indications point to it being a matter of when, not if) will miss the first four games of the 2014 NFL season. The Eagles will hope Johnson, who has spent his first full offseason in the NFL gaining seven pounds of muscle, will be ready to play right away.
As previously noted, Barbre is the top backup at any non-center position. The Eagles seem to be high on Matt Tobin. Tobin ideally projects to be a future version of Barbre; a swing tackle that can also play guard. Dennis Kelly returns for his third season in Philadelphia after a back injury caused him to miss time during training camp and early on in the season. Andrew Gardner is a 27-year-old veteran that has only played 49 snaps in the NFL. Michael Bamiro is still a raw second year project and Kevin Graf is an undrafted free agent from USC.
The depth at guard looks thin at offensive guard because it only consists of undrafted free agents like Karim Barton, Donald Hawkins, and Josh Andrews. Of those players I'd keep an eye on Barton. Also keep in mind that players like Barbre and Tobin could slide in as backup guards.
Center depth is very questionable. Julian Vandervelde is a converted guard and David Molk spent the entire 2013 season without being on an NFL roster or practice squad. I wonder if the Eagles would move Mathis to center (he was preparing to start a game there in 2012) and move Barbre or Tobin to guard if there was an injury to Kelce. That situation would essentially make the winner of the Vandervelde/Molk battle the third string center. Just a theory.
Who could be a surprise cut?
Locks: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre. I think Matt Tobin is a near lock. The other spots are less secure.
I don't see anything too shocking. Perhaps Dennis Kelly could lose out to Andrew Gardner. I don't think it would be surprising to see Bamiro cut. David Molk making the team over Julian Vandervelde seems possible but shouldn't be terribly surprising.