Jordan Mailata has been a project three years in the making. Picked in the seventh round of the 2018 draft, the towering 6’8″, 346lb Australian was as raw as they come. He was a former rugby player who had never played football in his life.
Despite this lack of experience, it didn’t stop Philadelphia from taking a flier. After two years of injury reserve stints, Mailata finally saw his first NFL play at left tackle due to a rash of injuries.
Fans were pleasantly surprised to see Mailata not be overwhelmed by opposing rushers. While his production still needed work, he looked to be taking crucial steps in the right direction.
For a team that’s been criticized for failing to properly develop their talent, Mailata seems to be an exception, giving hope that the team can continue this kind of progress with similar diamonds in the rough.
And now, Jason Peters is bringing this silver lining to a halt.
Mailata Has Exceeded Expectations
Mailata’s better-than-expected play has been one of the bright spots for the 2-4-1 Birds. He hasn’t committed a single holding penalty in the seven games he’s appeared in, and has only been flagged one time for a false start.
He has given up three sacks, which is tied for seventh amongst all other tackles according to Pro Football Focus. PFF has given him a season grade of 60.6. Certainly room for improvement, but not the worst grading either.
It hasn’t been all easy sledding- last week against the Giants, Mailata struggled in the early goings. But that shouldn’t define his season as a whole. He’s been able to keep pressure off of Carson Wentz, which is what he needs right now given his lack of experienced weapons.
He’s even made some eye-catching plays outside his domain:
This tackle by @jordan_mailata after Carson Wentz's fumble 🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/4AWWsYPMcQ
— Henry Hodgson (@nflukhank) October 18, 2020
Peters Back In Lineup Should (Unfortunately) Be Expected
Peters has been… detrimental to the Eagles this season, and that may be putting it mildly. Peter’s poor play, along with his insistence of being given a raise due to changing from guard to tackle, have created unneccessary distractions.
Of course, to blame Peters for taking over Mailata’s spot would be foolish. No, that blame should be directed towards the Eagles, whose’ stubbornness once again rears its ugly head.
With the NFC East suddenly being wide open due to horrific play, numerous “win-now” moves like this one prevent younger players from being able to show their potential.
For example, the Eagles recently released linebacker Casey Toohill, who was then claimed by the Washington Football Team, to clear a spot for 32-year-old Vinny Curry. This isn’t some terrible move, but it is telling.
Toohill may never amount to anything in the NFL. However, in a terrible season such as this, the Eagles should be interested in seeing what they have. Especially when that player happens to play a position they’re struggling with.
It’s exactly the kind of situation Mailata suddenly finds himself in.
Mailata is not only better in the long-term, but short-term
If the Eagles want to be putting the players that give them the best chance of winning on the field, then Mailata should be staying in the lineup.
Peters has only played 45% of snaps in his three games. This isn’t some new development, as he only played 75% of snaps in 13 games last year.
Starting a player who’s body isn’t allowing them to stay on the field doesn’t seem like a great idea in the grand scheme of things.
What is a good idea is keeping Mailata right where he’s at, so he can continue to play and learn. There’s going t0 be mistakes and rough patches, no doubt. But the Eagles need to allow Mailata to experience these and be able to adapt and overcome.
The Eagles don’t have to rush to make a decision regarding Peters and Mailata. At the time of this article, Lane Johnson was ruled out for Sunday night’s matchup.
That means Peters will take up the spot at left tackle, while Mailta will slide over to right. This may work out well for the Eagles, so that they can see how Peters returns from his injury and how his play compares to Mailata’s.
Of course, a choice between the two tackles will have to be made eventually. It’ll be tempting for the Birds to lean on their future Hall-of-Famer and have him finish his Eagles career as a starter.
But the right call is going with the project they’ve groomed for years. He’s showing signs of blooming into a permant staple at left.
He shouldn’t be a victim of nostalgia.