Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2016 is almost here. Coaches and players report as soon as Monday, July 25. The 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. We continue today by taking a look at the offensive line.
Left tackle: Jason Peters
Left guard: Allen Barbre (?)
Center: Jason Kelce
Right guard: Brandon Brooks
Right tackle: Lane Johnson
I'm not breaking news by saying the Eagles' offensive line struggled in 2015. Despite this, the Eagles did not make drastic changes to the starting unit in the offseason. The biggest move the Eagles made was signing Brandon Brooks in free agency, who is sure to be an upgrade at right guard. Outside of that, the Eagles are potentially returning four of the five starters from 2015. Jeff Stoutland is still the offensive line coach, too.
Some have wondered aloud if the Eagles' line will be improved given the lack of changes. It's a fair question. With that said, I do think the potential for improvement is there.
The most crucial element is obviously health. Peters, Kelce, and Johnson all played through significant injuries in 2015. The team is counting on them to be healthier this season. Sports science jokes aside, injuries can't be controlled. It's far from guaranteed these players will be able to stay on the field. The status of the 34-year-old Peters, who reportedly has a degenerative condition, is especially concerning.
Assuming the majority of these key players do stay healthy, however, they have a chance to be a good unit. Peters may not be in his prime but he's still a future Hall of Famer. Kelce was a Pro Bowl center in 2014. Johnson is emerging as one of the league's better right tackles and will eventually switch over to right tackle. For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus has graded Brooks as one of the top guards in the NFL over the past few seasons.
The biggest position of concern is left guard. Some might project Isaac Seumalo or Stefen Wisniewski to start there, which isn't impossible, but Doug Pederson really seems to love him some Allen Barbre. Stoutland is also a big Barbre fan. The offensive line coach said Barbre is "very underrated" last offseason.
Though Barbre might start, it's not like he's being handed the job like he was last year. He'll have stiffer competition this summer. He'll have to play better or else risk losing his spot.
OT: Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
OG: Isaac Seumalo, Malcolm Bunche, Andrew Gardner, Barrett Jones, Darrell Greene, Dillon Gordon
C: Stefen Wisniewski, Josh Andrews, Bruce Johnson
It's not as if the Eagles have a ton of proven depth here. The team aimed to improve this area by drafting Isaac Seumalo in the third round and Vaitai in the fifth. The 22-year-old Seumalo will have a real chance to compete for the left guard job. The thing that hurts Seumalo is that he missed all of Philadelphia's spring practices due to NCAA rule.
Tobin and Kelly have spent time at guard in the past and could get looks there. For now, though, it seems like their best opportunities at playing time will come at tackle. Oddly enough (to Eagles fans, at least), both players received one-year contract extensions this offseason. They're experienced backups for sure, but they haven't proven to be very good ones. Tobin may benefit from moving from guard back to tackle.
It will be interesting to see what Wisniewski ends up playing. Pederson has said he's in the mix at left guard but he mostly took reps as the second team center during OTAs and minicamp. Wiz has never entered a game as a backup in his NFL career. He's recorded 77 starts in as many games played over five seasons.
Gardner has gone from being a starter at right guard last season to an afterthought. The veteran blocker spent most of the spring running with the third team offensive line. It appears he's not a favorite of the new coaching staff.
The Eagles gave Greene the most guaranteed money of any undrafted rookie free agent this year. That doesn't guarantee his spot on the final roster, but it at least indicates he'll be in the mix for the practice squad.
How will it play out?
Four fifths of the Eagles' starting offensive line is locked in: Peters, Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson. The left guard spot is the big question. Barbre has the edge for now, but will someone beat him up? Will it be Seumalo? Or how about a dark horse candidate like Bunche?
There could be position battles for the depth jobs. If Seumalo doesn't start, he could be competing against Wisniewski for the backup center spot. Tobin and Kelly are vying to be the top backup tackle, with Big V in the mix as well.
Who could be a surprise cut?
There are a few veterans guys in this mix who can be cut for significant cap savings. Releasing Barbre would save $1.65 million and releasing Wisniewski would save $2.26 million. I don't think it's likely, but if either player absolutely stinks this summer, it's at least possible.