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Eagles Film Room: Isaac Seumalo could be a good replacement for Jason Kelce

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A closer look at the Eagles' third round pick from the 2016 NFL Draft.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Isaac Seumalo started four games last year. One of those was at right guard, one of those was at left guard and two of them were at right tackle. I went back and watched every snap he played, but for this piece I only highlight his play at guard. Seumalo isn't a tackle, watching him there didn't give me any real insight into what type of player he is. The week 17 game where he played left guard was against the Cowboys too, who were playing some backups. Because of that, the vast majority of clips here look at him at right guard against the Packers!

Based on a number of different reports, Isaac Seumalo will likely be the Eagles starting center next year. He could still play left guard though and they might sign/draft a center or even keep Kelce. I'm certain he'll start somewhere next year though. With that in mind, this film piece will try and highlight why his skill set will allow him play either guard or center next season. Obviously I can't post clips of every play, so I'll post clips of things I see multiple times. I'll start with the good, then look at the bad and then conclude with my overall thoughts on Seumalo.

The Good

'Smart, athletic and tough enough'. This phrase is mentioned frequently by offensive line experts and coaches around the league and I always keep it in mind when watching offensive lineman. I really liked Isaac Seumalo coming out of college because I thought he was a really smart player. If you're playing guard or center in the NFL currently, you need to be smart and instinctive because you are going to face a lot of stunts and disguised blitzes etc. I thought Seumalo showed the ability to handle these stunts this year and throughout his college career.

Here's a good example straight away of Seumalo playing smart. Seumalo knows Wentz is going to get this ball out his hand quickly so he knows he only needs to keep him clean for a short amount of time. It looks like the Cowboys are only rushing 3 at first, but the linebacker comes off a slightly delayed blitz. Seumalo goes to help out Peters but shows good awareness to spot the linebacker blitzing. He then shows good athleticism and feet to adjust and prevent the linebacker from having a free run at Carson Wentz. Of course, the play doesn't matter when DGB drops it!

I thought Seumalo was excellent in college at knowing when to come off the double team on the defensive lineman and move on to the linebacker. I love plays like this from offensive lineman. Here he helps out Kelce and gets the defensive tackle out the way. Then when he sees the linebacker about to shoot the gap, he makes a nice adjustment and stops the linebacker from getting anywhere near Smallwood. Understanding angles is a big part of playing as an offensive lineman and Seumalo understands when to engage with the defender in order to give himself the best chance of success. He gets a good punch here straight to the linebackers chest and knocks him slightly backwards.

I like this play a lot. You can't pass protect much better than this. Seumalo gets a good initial punch straight off the snap to put himself in control of this match-up. Seumalo never lunges forward (which was one of his issues in college), keeps a solid base and uses his hands extremely well. You can see the Packers defensive tackle attempting to rip away his hands but Seumalo is too quick for him with his hands. He gets into his pass set extremely quickly here, he's technically very accomplished and has really good feet as you can see here.

Here he actually gets beat slightly off the line of scrimmage as he doesn't take a great angle. It seems like he's expecting Kelce to help him double team the tackle but he never gets help. Anyway, he shows really good core strength to stop the tackle dead in his tracks and keep Wentz clean. He also does a good job getting his hands on the tackle's chest and not letting him swat them away. Watch Wentz' feet on this play, he never has to take a step backwards because he's comfortable Seumalo has the ability to recover from a bad start. One of Seumalo's knocks coming out of college was that he didn't have the biggest frame and could therefore be pushed back into his quarterback. Here he shows he does have the ability to anchor and slow down big defensive tackles, which is a great sign considering what we saw from Kelce this past season.

I really wanted to get some clips of Seumalo in the screen game and in space because I wanted to see whether he could replicate what Kelce was able to do in space (to an extent, Kelce is the best there is in space). Sadly, there wasn't much tape of him in space. There was some good tape that shows his ability to pull as a guard though, I think these clips show his athletic ability and quick feet.

I love the way he moves here. It may sound silly, but I think he looks graceful for a big guy and I like watching big guys who can move like this. He looks extremely fluid and effortless in his moment. He locates who he needs to block quickly and pushes his guy back with the help of the tight end and eventually gets him on the ground, which is always satisfying to see.

Once again, you can see his ability to pull, this time from the other guard position. He moves really well and the power he shows is impressive here as he is able to force the defensive end who has a free run at the running back backwards. Seumalo will never send someone flying, he doesn't have the freakish power as someone like Brandon Brooks or Lane Johnson does. But he normally gets the job done. If you just watch the defensive end on this play, you get a good feel for how quickly Seumalo can move. It looks like he has a free run. This play shows good spatial awareness from Seumalo too as he is able to locate his target without slowing down at all.

Last example I'll show of Seumalo on the move but I do think he moves really well. Here he once again shows good athleticism and feet and is able to block Clay Matthews who tries to dive underneath him.

The Bad

Considering the Packers game was Seumalo's first time ever starting in the NFL, I expected some bad plays so the plays below weren't too surprising.

Here he just gets beat badly at the point of attack which is unusual for him. He tries to initiate contact when he hasn't really set his feet and he's slightly off balance because of his. If you watch his right foot closely, you can see it lands awkwardly and it means he never has a solid base. Ross Tucker always speaks out the importance of the second step with offensive lineman and you can see here he doesn't get set properly. The defensive tackle uses his hands really well and is able to move Seumalo because he's off balance. Once you lose that badly at the line of scrimmage, it's almost impossible to recover and Seumalo has no chance here. He doesn't actually get flagged here though, so maybe he's perfected the 'accidental trip' skill!

Seumalo gets beat badly here. Although it's a passing play, the Eagles are using run action so the line are blocking like it's a running play. As I mentioned earlier, one knock on Seumalo is that he is slightly undersized and you can see here that it could be an issue. He's not a mauler in the run game but it was still surprising to see him end up on the floor so easily. Hopefully this is more of a 'Welcome to the NFL' type moment for Seumalo as a rookie in his first game and not something we'll see much of next season. Normally in the run game he is pretty consistent despite not flashing real power like someone like Brandon Brooks does.

This isn't a terrible play by any means, but it's worth showing because it relates to one issue I had with him pre-draft. Although he gets a good punch here and seems to be set, he loses his grip on the defender and allows him to rip his hands away. I think he slightly lunges forward and the tackle takes advantage. It's not a terrible flaw because quite often you will end up blocking the guy for long enough but you would like to see him secure his block when he gets such a good initial punch.

This play isn't really a bad play but it's similar to the one above so I thought I would show it. He has the tackle secured, with the help of the right tackle at first, but then he loses his grip again. He stills keeps him blocked for a long enough amount of time and he shows good athleticism to recover after getting beat too.

Overall

I really like Seumalo, just as I did when I watched him last summer. He is not a 'mauler' type lineman which is one reason why he fell to the third round, but he's technically very good and seems like a really smart player when on the field. He might not dominate his opponents but he is very sound in pass protection and can sustain his blocks in the run game. I am perfectly fine with him starting next year, either at left guard or center in place of Kelce. Seumalo doesn't have the biggest frame and I do wonder if the Eagles don't want him starting next to Kelce who is also undersized.

As I pointed out in the article, Seumalo moves really well and I think he will be fine replacing Kelce in that sense. Seumalo anchors a lot better than Kelce though and won't get pushed back anywhere near as much as Kelce did this past season, which is why it's likely they move on from Kelce. Seumalo gets into his pass set quickly and is very good with his hands initially which makes him hard to beat quickly. He has really quick feet too and uses his hands well for the most part. He does need to get better at sustaining his blocks and he can lunge forward at times which can cause him to lose balance but it's not a major issue.

I think Seumalo has higher upside at center based on everything we hear about him being a very smart player who studies hard. That intelligence and awareness will really help him at center. Despite always liking him, I have always believed his upside is limited due to his frame and the fact he never really dominates his opponent. He wasn't a 1st round pick for a reason after all. He could put on a little bit of weight too and slightly bulk out his frame. He may not be a flashy player and send his opponents flying to the ground, but there is value in simply sustaining your block like he does. If he continues to progress, I think he could be a top 10 or 12 center in the future. If he stays at guard, he'll be an average to above average player but may not excel like he can at center. I think Isaac Seumalo is 'smart, tough and athletic enough' to be a good player for the Eagles next year, wherever he starts.