Inside The Birds: Eagles O-Line Still NFL’s Best?
With June arriving this week, revised OTAs are in full swing, and free agents and trade options still appear to be out there for the Eagles.
On the latest Inside The Birds podcast, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan preview the Eagles’ offensive line and look at the recent front office promotions and moves.
Geoff Mosher: “You would think that [kick returning] would be a natural slot for [Kenny Gainwell] if he can handle it. Boston Scott has been returning kicks, we’ve talked about him competing for a job. Who else would return kicks on this team if not for Boston Scott or Kenny Gainwell?”
Adam Caplan: “I mean [John] Hightower could do it if he makes the team, it’s a 50/50 shot as we speak right now. He has to prove himself. I know Jason Huntley, he’s a real long shot to make the team. [Jalen] Reagor to me would be a punt returner and not a kickoff returner. I don’t know about DeVonta Smith on kickoff returns. I would think they probably wouldn’t do it but I don’t know yet.”
Mosher: “Yeah probably not. Is kickoff returning as important as it used to be with the new rules? Not as much, so I don’t think they would jeopardize him … You would hope that Kenny Gainwell can seize that job and really add a spark to that position.”
Caplan: “In terms of [the Eagles], they’re not looking to spend what he’s looking for right now. If he’s willing to take a deal at $2-3 million a year, it is my sense that they would be involved. I’m sure, knowing the way this front office works, they are always monitoring, calling the agent and seeing where things are at. Right now they don’t have a starting corner opposite of Darius Slay.”
Caplan: “As of Sunday night I was told that the Falcons were not anywhere closer to trading him than they were two weeks ago. But there are several teams involved, a lot of teams with varying levels of interest. I still don’t think they are going to get a clean first-round pick. What that means is they may wind up trading Julio Jones this week for a first-round pick but that they may have to give up an additional pick to get that first rounder back.”
Mosher: “As we close it out on Brandon Brooks, I have to say, I have no idea what to expect. I think he’s one of the fascinating stories headed into the season because he could very easily come back and be the best right guard in football like he did the first time he had an Achilles injury. But as we mentioned he’s also 32 and it’s a second Achilles injury, and we could start to see the first signs of decline. My point is, I have no idea what to expect from him, which is very abnormal. There are certain players you become very accustomed to having a certain level of play. This one’s a wild card. If you put a gun to my head I would say he’s probably going to play well. I suspect that he will come back and play like a really good right guard but it was a significant injury, it is the second time, he’s a little older and he’s remade his body so he has to kind of adjust to playing at that, so we’ll see. I mean I hope for the Eagles sake and his sake that he comes back and is close to, or at the form that he played at.”
Caplan: “I never count this guy out. I just would not based on everything he’s had to deal with. You mentioned the anxiety, not easy to deal with if you’ve known anyone who’s had to deal with it, it’s very difficult. Nobody wants to have it, you just have to deal with it. And to be able to play football at his level, I mean this guy’s a superstar, unless you’re an Eagles fan, fans across the country have no idea how gifted he is.”
Mosher: “I hope he and Jalen Hurts are taking the time to really go through the snaps this year because that was a real issue for them last year, there were a lot of bad snaps. Specifically, when Kelce was snapping to Jalen Hurts. I don’t think they were all Kelce’s fault, there were some times it hit Jalen Hurts in the hands. So to me that was just a timing or a cadence thing and just not being on the same page so I really hope they spent a lot of time this spring kind of going through that because you can’t have those in games. That’s one of those things that you just absolutely cannot have, bad snaps.”
Dillard vs. Mailata
Mosher: “I want to address what people say sometimes, Adam, because I think you and I would disagree when we hear people say, ‘Well, Andre Dillard is a first-round pick, so the team is rooting for him or wants him to be the left tackle,’ and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I know people think that a GM has an ego and would want to see the first-round pick succeed because that looks better, but I think it looks pretty good if your seventh-round pick can be a cornerstone left tackle, too. And what Mailata has already\ is the ability to be a road grader, because he’s athletic at that size, and he has good pass protection skills. I mean everything can be improved, but he can play at a good enough level to be a good left tackle in the NFL. Andre Dillard is a guy who has the great footwork, the pass protection against those speed rushers, but he was going to struggle and needed improvement against power, bull rushers because he just didn’t have that strength and that nastiness to him, and same thing as a run blocker, so I already feel like Mailata checks off more boxes. And as a seventh-round pick, who’s three years in if he claims this job, you can even give him an extension right now that’s going to be team friendly. He’s not a guy coming off two Pro Bowls so you can get him at a good price for a left tackle. So I think the Eagles have as many reasons to want Jordan Mailata to win that job as they would Andre Dillard, even though Dillard is the first-round pick.”
Caplan: “Right – and the good thing is here, when it comes to continuity, [Lane] Johnson is back at right tackle, Brooks is back at right guard, Kelce is back at center, [Issac] Seumalo is back at left guard so you’ve got your four starters back. These guys have been together a long time, several years. We know they’ve missed time because of health but overall they’ve played together and they started the same position for many many years, that’s great.
“Mailata got his feet wet, so to speak, he started to understand how to play football, he didn’t put a helmet on until April of 2018. The Eagles would like to see this through but as you said it’s not that they’re rooting for Dillard – they’re not – to win the job. May the best man win, they’ll have a competition. But they understand Mailata’s upside is absolutely off the hook. They’ve discovered oil with this guy, you want to give them credit for this find. It is just ridiculous. I’ve never heard of a story like this, a guy who’s a rugby player, never knew how to play football before. It’s hard to believe but you’ve got great coaching, we’ll see what we’ll see how it works out. I do believe this though: if Mailata wins it, like we think he will, they’re not going to give Dillard away. I don’t see them moving him unless they get a pretty significant pick, I don’t see them taking a third-round pick, there’s no way.”
Mosher: Catherine Raiche, she was promoted to vice president of football operations […] She’s a very important person in the organization, and it’s almost hard to describe exactly what she does because she does so many things. This is a job that encompasses analytics, encompasses scouting, encompasses organizational planning, and everything. But Adam, you remember Jeffrey Lurie in his last press conference talked about some of the rising stars in his front office, and she was one of them.”
Caplan: “I actually talked to someone who worked with her. This person was a very big fan of hers; she worked with the Montreal Alouettes. She was actually assistant GM for a short time, and said she’s really sharp, a really good evaluator, very organized, and very smart. So she’s gonna work closely with Howie Roseman – as you mentioned like Andrew Berry did. I’m sure she’s doing pro and college stuff, she’ll help with contracts, because she’s been an assistant GM she’s been involved with negotiation, player personal coordination, this is all her background. She’s just a jack of all trades. She’s done a lot and this really helps her at an NFL level, being able to take this on to this promotion and look, she’s now theoretically, as an NFL personal man told me, one step away from being an NFL GM.”
– Justin Morganstein (@jmotweets_) is a staff contributor to InsideTheBirds.com
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