Head coach Nick Sirianni has been clear about his likeness of competition since Day 1. Though much of this has been on the quarterback position, the focus has been shifted to another offensive role. The battle now is for left tackle — Andre Dillard vs. Jordan Mailata.
Will the former first-round pick or the rising competitor win the opportunity to start for the 2021 NFL season?
ONE MAN’S MISFORTUNE IS ANOTHER MAN’S OPPORTUNITY
The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he played in all 16 games with four starts. According to PFF, Dillard allowed 25 pressures on 183 pass-blocking snaps and 6.5 sacks that season.
Though there were questions about his mental toughness, Dillard was supposed to return for the 2020 season as left tackle for Jason Peters (signed initially to play guard). However, after suffering a biceps injury, Dillard was ruled out for the season. Injuries became a dime a dozen, leaving the Eagles with 15 different offensive lineups. Among them, Jordan Mailata.
Jordan Mailata did not play collegiate football. Instead, he was an Australian rugby player who became a seventh-round pick in 2018. He suffered two injuries in his first two seasons and was activated for the 2020 season. Mailata acquired his start in Week 4 after Jason Peters sustained an injury (at right tackle). He made ten starts in 15 appearances.
While Mailata led the team with seven sacks, he allowed 32 pressures on 502 pass-blocking snaps — a 71.1 pass pro snaps per sack score. This was the third-best behind Lane Johnson and Jack Driscoll. PFF graded Mailata as a top 15 tackle during the last five weeks of the season.
AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT
Despite pass-blocking abilities, run blocking has been a weakness for both Dillard and Mailata. The main issue is power — too little for Dillard and too much for Mailata.
In 2019, Dillard often allowed defenders to push him around. However, this offseason has been geared towards workouts and becoming stronger. On the other hand, at 6-foot-8, 346 pounds, Mailata’s frame gives speed rushers an upper hand, making it more difficult to recover.
DILLARD VS. MAILATA: HOW WILL THE BATTLE END?
Recently, Dillard stated, “I welcome all competition. I never shy away from it. I’m glad that it’s happening, and it makes sense that it’s happening. Jordan came in and filled in last year, played most of the season, and he did really well, so it only makes sense for the coaches to give it a little competition and not just give somebody the spot when I’ve just come back from the injury.”
But, as the offseason battle continues, how will each player ultimately be measured?
On a conference call earlier this week, Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland stated, “They’re going to both be given an opportunity. Whoever is the most productive and whoever does the best, whoever has the most value going into the season is going to be the starter.”
After a year off, Dillard has his work cut out for him. Mailata has shown vast improvement in a short amount of time and is able to play both left and right tackle — something that can’t be said of Dillard. However, the Eagles didn’t choose Dillard in the first round without reason.
My opinion is that the Eagles keep Mailata at left tackle. He has greater momentum going into 2021. Though previous trade rumors surrounded Dillard earlier this year, the Eagles would be wise to keep him, maybe at another position. It’s possible he finds a liking elsewhere on the field, and with Philadelphia’s history of injury, the Eagles need all the manpower they can get.