clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Peek Into The Future For Eagles Offensive Line?

New, comments

This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

No draft picks since Lane Johnson, Round 1, 2013. No major free-agent acquisitions. The decisions to release veteran guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. A series of moves along the offensive line that have been the topic of much conversation for Eagles fans and the media these last many months come squarely into focus for Sunday night's game in Dallas.

IF IF IF left tackle Jason Peters doesn't play, the Eagles are shifting it all around. Johnson goes from right tackle to left tackle. Dennis Kelly goes from the sidelines to right tackle. Matt Tobin stays at right guard.

Should this scenario unfold, the story is about more than the five starters up front, including center Jason Kelce and left guard Allen Barbre. It's about the fundamental philosophy the Eagles employed building the line, understanding the big picture and implementing the pieces. A rough start up front contributed to a struggling running game this season and the uneven nature of a 3-4 football team coming off the bye week.

Beyond that, there is the question how much head coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will adapt the game plan against a pass rush led by veteran Greg Hardy and rookie Randy Gregory and a solid cog in Jeremy Mincy and second-year emerging end DeMarcus Lawrence. What changes do the Eagles make to support the changed offensive line? Two tight ends on the field helping to pass block? Maximum protection calls and using just two wide receivers in the passing game? And if they do that will they move Jordan Matthews outside in place of either Riley Cooper or Josh Huff?

So many questions with answers coming on Sunday night. The last time something like this happened, in 2007, then-head coach Andy Reid blew it. Just blew it. He left tackle Winston Justice alone on an island in a game against the New York Giants and defensive end Osi Umenyiora ate Justice alive on the way to 6 sacks of quarterback Donovan McNabb - the Giants had 12 total, tying an NFL record - as New York beat Philadelphia 16-3.

Embarrassing.

There was another time, in December of 2004, when the Eagles offensive line was all torn up and the Green Bay Packers came to town and Reid trotted out a starting front that included Steve Scullo at left guard and Alonzo Ephraim at right guard and all the offense did was roll up 542 total yards with 5 McNabb touchdown passes and 464 passing yards to destroy Green Bay, 47-17. It could have been worse. The Eagles led 35-3 at the half.

So you just never know.

But this is more than simply focusing on Kelly at right tackle and Johnson at left tackle, should it come to that. It's about the way the Eagles approached the offensive line not only in this past offseason but in recent drafts. They're banking on Kelly and Johnson and Tobin and on Josh Andrews, who would surely dress with Tanner Hawkinson - claimed off of waivers from San Francisco on October 13 - as the seventh lineman.

Dallas is starting La'el Collins at left guard, as you know, and Kelly said on Thursday that the Eagles did not consider Collins in the April/May draft and that he was not, in fact, on their draft board. Dallas signed Collins after the draft and he's starting now.

This is the game to find out a lot of things as the Eagles emerge after the bye week fresh and very much in the mix in the NFC East. They face the prospect of playing their arch rivals without a mainstay left tackle, a future Hall of Fame player, in Peters. When he's on his game and healthy and at his best, Peters makes everything better up front. We saw that in wins over New Orleans and New York.

When Peters has been injured - he's been in and out of the lineup for most of the seven games, other than the Saints and Giants - the line has struggled and the offense has been inconsistent. The days of taking Peters and his Pro Bowl dominance at left tackle for granted are over. That's clear.

The future peek, the one without Peters, is already here if he can't go on Sunday night. Are the Eagles ready for what they're about to see?