Birds Need Solution For Ailing O-Line – And Quick
Just two months ago, the Eagles’ offensive line was heralded among the NFL’s elite.
The formidable unit, returning three Pro Bowlers, an ascending left guard, and presumably, a long-term fixture at left tackle, was expected to be the catalyst for running back Miles Sanders and to enable Carson Wentz to push the ball downfield in 2020.
However, the Eagles are once again snake-bitten on the injury front.
When three-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks ruptured his left Achilles tendon in June, the team called on old friend Jason Peters to make the grueling transition from left tackle to right guard.
But moving off the edge and into an interior role presents its own unique challenges, even for a 38-year-old future Hall of Fame lineman.
Last week, it was 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard, tabbed as Peters’ successor at left tackle, who learned he would miss the entirety of his second season with a torn biceps.
While the logical solution to the Dillard conundrum would be kicking Peters back out to left tackle and promoting swing reserve Matt Pryor to the vacant interior spot, Peters had other motives.
The veteran offensive lineman alerted the team that he had no intention of reprising his role as blindside protector without a raise. Peters signed a 1-year, $3 million contract with the team in late July that has several incentives to earn several million more.
While both sides have held firm in the early goings, ITB’s Adam Caplan indicated that Peters looked fluid and strong at guard in Sunday’s scrimmage.
The tackle audition has been less than stellar.
Pryor, a third-year pro, received the bulk of first-team reps at left tackle during Sunday’s scrimmage. Despite Pryor’s immense size and reach, the experiment failed to yield positive results, as he unsurprisingly struggled to contend with the speed and athleticism of the Eagles’ pass rush.
Jordan Mailata, a raw but intriguing third-year lineman, has the physical tools to play the position, but his development was stunted due to the altered offseason. Mailata and the Eagles would have greatly benefited from first-team preseason reps.
With Pryor and Mailata failing to inspire confidence, the next hopeful would seemingly be fourth-round pick Jack Driscoll.
Although Driscoll projects as a right tackle long term, the 6-foot-5, 306-pound lineman could be the team’s best option with the opener less than two weeks away.
Beginning his career at UMass, where he spent time at left guard and left tackle in 2016 before starting all 12 games the following season, Driscoll opted to level up and pursue SEC competition. Transferring to Auburn, where he started 25 games over his final two seasons, Driscoll faced some of the nation’s premier pass rushers. He finished his collegiate career with 45 consecutive starts – the 10th longest streak in the FBS by an offensive lineman.
Driscoll’s eye-opening senior campaign was rewarded with an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl, where he showcased his versatility, good technique, and football intellect
When the Eagles selected the 23-year-old with the 145th overall selection in April, it was initially believed that he would spend his rookie season as a weekly inactive as he adapted to the professional level.
With time dwindling to the season opener, the Eagles must identify who will be lining up against Washington Football Team’s Chase Young and plan accordingly. Driscoll doesn’t offer the upside or athleticism that Mailata has, but still, he brings experience from the highest college football level, a refined skill set, and a supremely high football IQ. He can align anywhere along the offensive line, including center.
Amid the standoff with Peters, the Eagles would be prudent to turn over every rock in search of a solution in the meantime.
-Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.