As summer heats up, so will the Eagles’ camp battles. Iggles.com is starting a new series that will be examining every position, both offense and defense, and the upcoming intense duals for pivotal starting spots.
The offensive line, once a strength during the Birds playoff years, has slowly fallen to shambles due to poor play and injuries. However, many key pieces still remain, and with a little luck and better health, this unit could surprise many.
The offense line last year was one to forget. Marred by injuries, the OL had a new starter virtually every week. Unknowns were thrust into action, and the results were predictably mediocre. The Eagles’ line allowed 65 sacks, the worst in the NFL.
Coming into this season, the line should look much better. Lane Johnson will once again man right tackle. The 31-year-old veteran dealt with reoccurring injuries throughout the season, which limited him to just seven games played.
Meanwhile, Brandon Brooks will be returning from his torn Achilles injury. Brooks had been to three straight Pro-Bowls before his tear, and registered a 92.8 PFF grade in 2019. Suffice to say, it’s huge for the Birds to get him back at right guard.
Jason Kelce will be suiting up for his 11th season with the Eagles, and it will probably be his last. Kelce, 34 in November, has flirted with the idea of retirement the last couple seasons. The Eagles responded by drafting Kelce’s apparent heir, Alabama’s Landon Dickerson.
Dickerson was probably put into one of the best possible situations. He’ll have a great offensive line coach in Jeff Stoutland, and he’ll be able to learn from Kelce, a three-time All-Pro. Meanwhile, expect Kelce to deliver one final standout season.
Issac Seumalo will be filling in at left guard. Seumalo had a 62.4 PFF grade last season. He’s a decent player for the Eagles, but he could be challenged for the position (more on this later).
Last but not least, we have either Jordan Mailata or Andre Dillard at left tackle. Mailata finally emerged as a potential line cornerstone after having been a project for the past couple years. Meanwhile, Dillard missed the 2020 campaign due to injury.
This will be one of the most interesting camp battles to watch. Dillard is closer to “draft bust” than he is “starter,” but the Eagles will give him the chance to prove doubters wrong. Still, Mailata is likely the early favorite to nab the starting spot. He’s shown better results, he’s younger, and at this point he probably has more potential.
What would happen to Dillard if he loses? I think the team should keep him as a backup. The amount of injuries last season should you can never have enough depth, and Dillard’s worth is likely at an all-time low. The value you get from him serving as depth would be greater than anything they would likely get in a trade.
Players To Watch: Jordan Mailata & Landon Dickerson
Mailata and Dickerson will have all sorts of eyes on them, because they could both be studs in the OL for the next decade.
Mailata was impressive last season, considering he was thrown into the fire following Jason Peters’ injury. He had some ups and downs, as all rookies do, but he showed he was worth the time and effort as a prospect.
Having a full offseason of starter reps could help Mailata, and winning the LT battle over Dillard would definitely be a confidence booster.
One of the more interesting comments from Howie Roseman was that he didn’t expect Landon Dickerson’s first season to be a “redshirt” year. That shows he and the team think Dickerson could potentially compete for Seumalo’s starting spot at left guard, and then revert to center in 2022.
The idea of letting Dickerson compete for a spot as soon as this season is intriguing. He’s highly regarded and has the potential of an All-Pro player. Plus, you want to have the best possible players on the field. Getting the most value out of Dickerson while he’s on his rookie contract would be ideal.
However, Dickerson’s injury concerns are very real. Dickerson has had two ACL tears and ankle injuries. He only had one healthy season in college.
The Eagles haven’t exactly had a great record when it comes to betting on players to bounce back in terms of health. Sydney Jones was never able to shake off the injury bugs that dropped him out of being a first-round pick. Let’s hope Dickerson doesn’t suffer the same fate.
This Is A Position That Could Be Top-10 In The League, But Health Is A Huge Factor
If Brooks, Kelce, and Johnson all have their normal standard of play, and Mailata and Seumalo are above-average, this line will dominate in both the passing and running game. We could be looking at a top-10 OL.
However, the big “if” here is health. Brooks is coming back from a major injury, and we still don’t know about Johnson. Plus, it seems as if anyone and everyone is susceptible to injury. There’s no givens as to who will play how many games.
One thing is for sure- the offensive line is crucial to the Eagles offensive success. Carson Wentz struggled with sacks over the past couple seasons. Some of those were his own fault, but other times he had little time to throw and was often on the run.
In order for Jalen Hurts to avoid what Wentz suffered through, and sturdier OL is needed. If IR time is avoided, that type of line is what should be in store for Hurts and the fans.