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Position review: offensive tackle

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Between two.... oaks

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our position by position review of the 2016 season, we turn to offensive tackles.

Jason Peters

Peters made his ninth Pro Bowl in 10 years, the 10th year being the 2012 season he missed with an Achilles injury. Some may call it a reputation pick, but Peters had a much better season than his 2015 outing. One reason: he was healthy. Nine different players started on the Eagles offensive line this season, only Peters and Jason Kelce were there for all of them. In five games he came off the field with an injury that, at age 34, gave you pause that it could be a bad one. It never was. Peters regained his form as an effective pass protector, made more impressive with a mobile quarterback (read: generally higher rate of being sacked) who was also a rookie (again, read: generally higher rate of being sacked), and was an effective pass blocker.

He did have his faults. Peters led the league in false starts with 10, nine players tied for 2nd with 6. 7 of those 10 false starts came at home, the issue wasn’t crowd noise in a hostile environment. Along with some curiously slow snaps by Jason Kelce, the issue very well may lie in Carson Wentz’s cadence. Peters had only 3, 5 and 5 in the previous three seasons.

Verdict: Thumps up. Age ain’t but a number. Speaking of numbers, if the Eagles can work out a contract extension that lowers Peters’ cap hit ($11.2M in 2017 after $9.7 in 2016), great, but as the 7th highest paid left tackle for 2017 (that could be 8th depending on what free agent to be Andrew Whitworth gets), Peters cap hit isn’t high.

Lane Johnson

Johnson had a strong 2015 and continued that into the 2016 season.... until his ten game suspension went into effect. Johnson’s absence wasn’t the reason the team went 2-8 without him, but it was a reason, and a big one. He’s established himself as both a very strong run blocker and pass protector.

Verdict: Thumbs down. When Johnson played, he was one of the best right tackles in the league. But he only played six games.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

After an inauspicious start, Vaitai (and the team’s blocking schemes) settled down, and he was a competent starting right tackle. It’s hard to say Vaitai was any kind of strength this season, but it’s also hard to say that, after his debut, he was a liability either. Considering he was a 5th round rookie, that’s a solid season. After neglecting offensive line in the draft for 20 straight rounds in the draft from 2013-2015, getting solid performances from both draft picks (more on interior lineman and Isaac Seumalo on another day) this year is a tremendous boost to the line. With both starting spots locked down, having a young backup with experience is a nice asset to have.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Eagles want to build through the draft, and competent play out of late round picks as rookies is an encouraging sign that they can.

Matt Tobin

After playing over 500 snaps in each of the last two seasons, Tobin played only 100 in 2016. The opportunity was certainly there. Doug Pederson wants versatility from his offensive linemen, and the decision to make Tobin, the top left tackle backup, the fifth option at right tackle shows that they don’t think he has it. (Curiously, Halapoulivaati Vaitai is a right tackle only.)

Verdict: Thumbs down. He’ll likely be on the roster for training camp, but with offensive tackle still a draft need, his days are probably numbered.