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.
Extending the contract of defensive tackle Tim Jernigan made every bit of sense for the Eagles, who have made and will continue to make the commitment to winning football: Build the lines of scrimmage and you can win in the NFL.
Quarterback Carson Wentz has been fantastic through nine games and he deserves so much deserved praise. In making the leap from promising young quarterback in Year 1 to Superstar Quarterback in Year 2, Wentz has improved mechanics, yes, and he has continued to work as hard as any player can, for sure, but perhaps the most noticeable difference (along with an improved set of skill-position players) for Wentz is the way the offensive line has played.
Last season, the Eagles were humming on offense until right tackle Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games for violating the league’s substance policy. Then the offense took steps back before rebounding when Johnson returned for the final two games.
In the offseason, the Eagles made the offensive line an important unit to continue to improve. They re-signed guard Stefen Wisniewski to a three-year contract, an under-the-radar move that has paid big dividends. They signed guard Chance Warmack in free agency, and then extended his contract a year before the regular season began. Warmack hasn’t made an impact, but he’s a veteran reserve who has starting experience and is as good a backup as you’ll find in the offensive line-starved league.
The Eagles have been able to withstand the loss of left tackle Jason Peters (who had his contract extended before Training Camp) because of the commitment they’ve made to developing young linemen like Halapouloavaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo. Vaitai has played well at left tackle, the position he played at TCU. Seumalo is the third tackle on the roster and, despite some poor play at guard early in the season, is a player the Eagles feel has a very, very high upside.
Combined with the improved play from right guard Brandon Brooks, who should be in the Pro Bowl after this season, the all-world play of Johnson at right tackle, the outstanding step up from center Jason Kelce, Wisniewski’s steadiness and Big V’s step-in solid play, the line has been blowing defensive lines off the ball and creating running lanes and also giving Wentz plenty of time to work the pocket.
There are no contract issues to resolve in the coming offseason. Continuity is going to build.
“I have been very pleased and thrilled with the way our line has played,” said offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, a man who is rarely “pleased” and “thrilled.” “They have worked so hard and it’s all paying off. There is a lot more football to go, but I like where we are and I’m excited about what we can do in the weeks to come.”
On the defensive line, the Eagles have set themselves up for a long period of outstanding play. The entire line, except reserve tackle Beau Allen, is signed through at least next season. Jernigan, Cox, Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett have long-term deals. Brandon Graham is signed through 2018.
This is all beautiful stuff for the Eagles, who are in position to continue to win at the line of scrimmage through next season and beyond. And when you win there, you win in the NFL.
Jernigan didn’t figure to be an easy signing, but the Eagles got it done during the season, on a bye week, and now they can concentrate, with some cap room to work with, to pick through the players on one-year deals: running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, cornerback Patrick Robinson, linebacker Nigel Bradham and Allen, to name a handful.
Some will stay. Some, as is the reality of the salary cap, will move on after this season. That’s just how it works in the league.
But the Eagles locked up a key signing by retaining Jernigan and keeping the lines of scrimmage strong for seasons to come.