All-22: Pryor Shows Awareness, Athleticism In Limited Snaps
Coping with a largely unprecedented virtual offseason, the Eagles navigated a relatively tranquil path through unfamiliar territory.
However, when news of a season-ending injury to Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks surfaced, the pathway to a league-wide resumption became a bit more arduous for the defending NFC East champions.
Losing Brooks, one of the game's premier interior offensive linemen, is undoubtedly a devastating blow to a team with soaring expectations – but hardly constitutes as a season-defining setback.
For now, the plan to remedy the sizable void on the right side hinges on third-year pro Matt Pryor's development.
Pryor, the Eagles’ sixth-round pick in 2018, saw his first NFL action last season after essentially redshirting as a rookie. The 6-foot-7, 338-pound swing tackle appeared in 12 games in 2019, logging 79 offensive snaps. While Pryor's brief resume would ordinarily signal a cause for concern, encouraging late-season performances against the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks yielded mostly positive results.
The last time we saw Pryor, he was starting in place of an injured Brooks in the Wild Card matchup against Seattle. Although few would classify his playoff debut as dominant, the monstrous lineman represented himself well against a formidable defensive front, demonstrating power, efficient hand usage, and reactive athleticism.
Barring an unforeseen transaction in the coming weeks, the Eagles are prepared to embark on the 2020 season with Pryor as Brooks’ replacement. It will now be up to the TCU product to prove the Eagles right for taking a leap of faith.
Reviewing Pryor’s Wild Card performance, it’s evident that he possesses enough intriguing physical traits to take the next step in his progression. Let's check out the All-22 tape from last year.
On this play, Pryor (69) demonstrates quality hand usage to stave off Jarran Reed (91), creating a clean pocket that enables Josh McCown to drop back and find Zach Ertz for a 32-yard pickup. This proved to be the Eagles' biggest play of the game for.
Pryor also showcased good moments in the run game, as Eagles running backs combined for 84 rushing yards on 20 carries. On this inside-zone run from Miles Sanders, Pryor gets an initial pop on defensive tackle Poona Ford (97) before picking up Bobby Wagner (54), who is attempting to shoot the gap.
Pryor executes his assignment by sealing off Wagner. If Sanders had followed Pryor's lead, it likely would have resulted in a first down.
This next clip shows Pryor initially engaging with Reed (91) before recognizing the stunting Ezekiel Ansah (94) and pivoting quickly to pick up the stunt. The recognition and execution allowed Wentz to complete a short dump-off to Boston Scott.
On this play, the Eagles find success on another inside-zone run, with Pryor again executing his combo block at the line of scrimmage before climbing into the second level.
Pryor provided an initial chip on Ford (97) to aid Jason Kelce before getting to the second level, where he sealed off linebacker Wagner (54) long enough to spring Sanders for an 18-yard pickup.
One of Pryor's few glaring miscues in his first career start was one that typically plagues young linemen – finishing in pass pro. Watch on the breakdown on the right side.
While his initial strike on edge rusher Quinton Jefferson (99) is strong – almost knocking Jefferson down – Pryor relented rather than finishing his block through the whistle. Jefferson's second effort allowed him to chase down McCown from behind for a 1-yard loss.
While it's irrational to assess a player's strengths and limitations after merely 79 pro snaps, Pryor has shown enough in a limited capacity to suggest he has the chops to provide adequate play at right guard in the absence Brooks. The Eagles will probably sign a veteran in the coming weeks to challenge Pryor, but keep an eye on second-year holdover Nate Herbig, a former standout guard at Stanford who made a successful transition to center as a rookie.
-Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network. Listen to the latest Inside the Birds podcast here: