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Eagles offensive line has some health questions but the potential for greatness is there

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Eagles training camp position preview: Offensive line.

Philadelphia Eagles Minicamp Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is almost here. Players report to the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday, July 24. 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 wide receiver position. Previously: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end.


The players

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Andre Dillard, Jordan Mailata, Ryan Bates, Tyreek Burwell, Casey Tucker

The 37-year-old Peters is back for his 15th NFL season. He actually started and played in all 16 matchups last year but that stat is a little misleading since he had to leave a number of games early. Peters only played 79.49% of the Eagles’ total offensive snaps. The Eagles could easily find themselves in a similar situation this year where injuries/aging cause Peters to miss playing time. And yet, the coaching staff is optimistic about Peters’ outlook. Look at what offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said about Peters back in June:

“I’ll be honest. Have you ever had an ACL [surgery]? It takes a minute to come back from that. It takes a minute. A lot of people would say a year. Not only just physically but mentally. So, I really do believe — I’ve always felt this way — that he’s going to be a better, more productive player than last year. I really do believe that.

The Eagles are counting on JP to be a good left tackle for them in 2019. We’ll see if he can live up to expectations. I’m cautiously optimistic.

On the other side of the offensive line, Johnson is entering his seventh NFL season. The 28-year-old was a Pro Bowl alternate last season despite playing through a high ankle injury. The Eagles should be able to count on Johnson being the best right tackle in the league in 2019.

It’s entirely possible Vaitai starts the season at right guard if Brooks isn’t ready. Big V took all the first team reps there during spring practices. There’s some thought he could play better at guard than he does at tackle. If Brooks is healthy enough to play in Week 1, though, Vaitai figures to resume his role as the team’s top swing tackle. At least, I think that’s what would happen? If Peters goes down, it could actually be Dillard who fills in at left tackle. But if it’s Johnson who’s unavailable, Vaitai could get the nod over Dillard since the rookie has been exclusively training on the left side. It’s also possible the Eagles could trade Big V ... more on that below.

Dillard is the Eagles’ long-term Peters replacement. The Eagles’ 2019 first-round pick will likely be the starting left tackle heading into 2020 and beyond. In the short-term, Dillard could see playing time if/when Peters has to come out of the game. Dillard has great potential but he’s also a work in progress. The Eagles are counting on Stoutland to coach him up and refine his game.

It’ll be interesting to gauge how much progress Mailata has made after only playing his first football game EVER last August. Mailata stepping up in a big way could make Big V more expendable. It’s worth noting that the team does have him learning right tackle now in addition to left tackle. The realistic expectation for Mailata is that 2019 will be another learning year for him. With Big V likely leaving Philly in March 2020, Mailata could be poised to take over as the team’s swing tackle next season.

Bates has the versatility to play all five offensive line spots. He could be worth keeping around on the practice squad, assuming he doesn’t make a roster push.

Burwell and Tucker are camp bodies.

OFFENSIVE GUARD: Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Stefen Wisniewski, Matt Pryor, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta

Brooks is one of the best guards in the league. The big question is: will he be ready for Week 1 after suffering an Achilles injury in the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Saints? There’s some optimism on that front. At least one of Brooks’ teammates thinks he’ll be back “if not for Game 1 then very early on.” Howard Eskin says he’s been told there is “no question Brandon Brooks will be ready for [the] start of [the] season.” Brooks has been posting videos of his recovery progress throughout the offseason. He was doing some rehab work on a side field during last month’s minicamp. I can’t say I’m 100% confident he’ll be ready by Week 1 but it seems like Brooks will avoid going on the regular season PUP list and missing at least the Eagles’ first six games. That’s good. At the same time, one can’t help but wonder how close to 100% Brooks will be early in the season. Will he be as effective as ever?

Seumalo is the Eagles’ worst starting offensive lineman. In fairness to him, the other four starters are really good. And it’s not like Seumalo is horrible. He actually ranked 38th out of 88 guards graded by Pro Football Focus last season. That’s better than the guy he replaced in the starting lineup; Wisniewski finished 62nd. The Eagles showed some level of faith in Seumalo by signing him to a team-friendly contract extension earlier this offseason. If he can at least be average, that’d be fine. Anything better is a bonus.

Wis re-signed with Philly despite the fact the Eagles originally declined his 2019 option back in March. Unlike last year when he opened the season as the team’s starting left guard, Wis will once again be ready the bench this season. He’s not even getting a real crack to be a temporary starter at right guard while Brooks is out. It’s clear the Eagles don’t want Wis playing if they can help it. Still, Wis figures to be the top backup at center and the second backup (behind Big V at the first backup) at guard.

Pryor didn’t play a single regular season snap as a rookie. The 2018 sixth-round pick was generating some buzz early in training camp last year prior (no pun intended) to struggling in preseason games. Pryor will need to show improvement as he pushes for a roster spot this year.

Herbig tied linebacker T.J. Edwards for the most amount of guaranteed money received out of all the Eagles’ undrafted rookie free agent signings. He could push for a reserve roster spot or a practice squad job.

Opeta’s essentially in the same boat at Herbig. There’s an opportunity to step up for a reserve guard spot.

CENTER: Jason Kelce, Anthony Fabiano, Keegan Render

Kelce reportedly considered retirement prior to signing a one-year contract extension with the Eagles back in March. Philadelphia’s very fortune he didn’t quit the game because he’s incredibly important to their success. Kelce is arguably the best center in the league. It’s great to know he’ll be back for at least one more year.

Fabiano and Render are probably just camp bodies. Wis is the real backup center on the roster.

How will it play out?

There are two main scenarios to think about as it pertains to the Week 1 starting lineup. If Brooks ISN’T ready, here’s who the Eagles will be starting against Washington:

Left tackle — Jason Peters
Left guard — Isaac Seumalo
Center — Jason Kelce
Right guard — Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Right tackle — Lane Johnson

Dillard could be the top backup at left tackle while Mailata might actually fill in at right tackle. Or the Eagles could move Vaitai out to tackle and bring Wis in to play at right guard. Wis would be the top backup to Seumalo or Kelce if one of them gets hurt.

Now let’s look at the optimistic scenario where Brooks is ready to play.

Left tackle — Jason Peters
Left guard — Isaac Seumalo
Center — Jason Kelce
Right guard — Brandon Brooks
Right tackle — Lane Johnson

in this situation, Vaitai might be the top backup at both tackles spots and both guard spots. Or maybe just the top backup at right guard and right tackle. It could still be Dillard slated to play at left tackle if Peters goes down. Wis would definitely still be the top option behind Kelce.

In any case, the Eagles should have one of the best offensive lines in the league in 2019. PFF thinks highly enough of them to rank Philly as THE No. 1 o-line. I think the potential for that exists. However, it’s hardly a lock. There are obvious reasons for concern when it comes to an aging Peters and a rehabbing Brooks. If everything goes well, though, the Eagles’ offensive line should do a great job of protecting Carson Wentz as well as opening holes for the run game. It’s a unit that should be good enough to have the Eagles as a legitmiate Super Bowl contender.

Who could be a surprise cut?

The Eagles won’t cut Vaitai but they could trade Big V if Brooks is healthy and they receive an attractive offer. The Eagles would probably want at least a fourth-round pick for Vaitai since that’s what they’d probably get as a 2021 compensatory pick if he leaves in free agency. The Eagles could easily end up settling for the comp pick since Vaitai has short-term value to a team seriously competing for a Super Bowl this year.

Mailata could get the axe if he doesn’t shown enough development. I don’t think the Eagles will be giving up on him just yet but he does need to earn his roster spot.

Pryor could end up getting cut caught in a numbers crunch, especially if he’s outperformed by one of the undrafted rookie free agents.

Poll

On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in the Eagles’ offensive line? (5 being the most.)

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    5
    (463 votes)
  • 47%
    4
    (456 votes)
  • 3%
    3
    (37 votes)
  • 0%
    2
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (5 votes)
968 votes total Vote Now