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Position review: interior offensive line

Guardians of the Eagles galaxy

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Kicking off our last day of position reviews, we look at interior offensive linemen. Since Jason Kelce played every snap, a review of centers would be just him, so we’ll group him in with the guards.

Jason Kelce

The only player to play every snap on offense, Kelce had a rocky but overall good season. Too many times he risked a delay of game penalty with snaps that got off just in time, and in the Lions game two of them didn’t get off in time and were called. As we noted in the tackles review, when you consider that alongside Jason Peters’ abnormally high number of false starts, the primary blame for that may with Carson Wentz. And too many snaps went through Carson Wentz’s hands, causing him to lead the league in fumbles. Doug Pederson dished out blame to Wentz for many of them though. And his consistent struggles with significantly larger DTs will only increase as he ages.

But for 2016, he was good enough. Carson Wentz had the 11th best sack rate of starting QBs, in part because of Kelce’s command and control of pass protections. And he remains one of the most athletic interior linemen in the league, his ability to get to the second level was one of the reasons why the Eagles were, per Football Outsiders, the 6th best offensive line at the second level (yards between 5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage). The Eagles had the 7th most runs of 10+ yards up the middle, and the 12th fewest negative runs.

2017 may be his last season with the Eagles though. He’ll be 31 in 2018, the Eagles will save $6 million by releasing him, and the coaching staff likes Isaac Seumalo’s potential at center. Aside from his first year, all of Andy Reid’s centers spent at least their first season as a backup, Doug Pederson may also want to have his centers groomed.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Kelce is in decline but he’s still a starting center.

Brandon Brooks

Howie Roseman gave out questionable contract extensions, but he had a great offseason at adding starters in free agency. Brandon Brooks was no exception, he was consistently a strong run blocker and pass protector all season. It’s simplistic, but you rarely noticed him in a bad way during games. For an offensive lineman, that’s a job well done. With Lane Johnson suspended for 10 games, poor play from Brooks could have doomed the Eagles. Instead, the offensive line played well, all things considered. That doesn’t happen without a pretty good player along side backups.

And there’s reason to believe he could be even better in 2017. After missing his second game in a three game span, Brooks admitted that he had a serious issue with anxiety and was seeking treatment. Players aren’t machines, mental health matters as much as physical health, if Brooks can get the help he needs then he may be even more effective.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Eagles paid Brooks to be a very good right guard, and they got their money’s worth.

Allen Barbre

When Chip Kelly released Evan Mathis in 2015, the move was widely panned both for the timing of it after a drawn out saga and for football reasons. There was one person who thought the move would workout though. Tra Thomas said that he felt Barbre would be a better fit beside Jason Peters. In 2015 nearly everything about the Eagles was awful, but in 2016 he was right.

Allen Barbre had the best season of his short career as a starter (and Jason Peters bounced back as well). Maybe Tra Thomas has a future as a scout. Barbre was solid all around, and showcased his versatility by playing both left guard and right tackle, at times in the same game.

Barbre will be 33 next year, though with far less wear and tear than a typical mid thirties player. Another guard/center is a mid-to-low draft need, but for 2017 they don’t need a starter.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Barbre might have to fend off Isaac Seumalo or a rookie in camp, but he should deservedly enter the offseason as the starting left guard.

Stefen Wisniewski

A stop gap backup guard/center to give depth to an offensive line that needed it, Wisniewski was a solid signing. He played well in his six starts and three other appearances of notable playing time. A fine signing, but nothing special.

Verdict: Thumbs up. He played well, but as a free agent to be and the Eagles needing to inject more youth into the offensive line and backup guards readily available in free agency, they should move on.

Isaac Seumalo

After taking Lane Johnson fourth overall in 2013, the Eagles went 20 consecutive rounds without drafting another offensive lineman. In 2016, they took two, starting with Seumalo 79th overall. Doug Pederson praised his versatility, and as a rookie he showcased it, starting at left guard, right guard and right tackle, and played well at all of them. For any player, that’s a good season. For a rookie, that’s impressive.

And none of those positions may be his future in the NFL. The coaching staff sees him as a center, which he played for most of his college career. There are a bunch of possibilities for Seumalo in 2017: he could earn the starting left guard job over Allen Barbre, he could knock Jason Kelce out of his starting job, or he could be the top backup at all three interior spots. Kelce and Barbre will be in their thirties in 2017, so another guard/center draft pick would make sense. If so, the team may want to have Seumalo and that rookie have strict left/right backup duties. Seumalo’s versatility is a great asset over the course of a season, but specialization can lead to great efficiency. Along with the natural progression of a player in his second year, focusing on backing up only two positions could be beneficial.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Eagles look like they have a good young player and a good problem on their hand with figuring out where best to use him.

Dillon Gordon

A blocking tight end in college, Gordon is following Jason Peters’ footsteps of trying to transition from tight end in college to offensive lineman in the NFL. With just six snaps played all season, four of them on special teams, there’s nothing to go on.

Verdict: Thumbs up? The Eagles obviously liked what they saw out of him in practice to keep him on the active roster all year and never play him.

Josh Andrews

In his third year with the Eagles, Andrews played just one snap on offense and 12 on special teams, spending 13 games inactive.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Andrews should have a spot on the 90 man roster, but nothing guaranteed beyond that.