"The Bodyguard" Return Brings An Answer – And Questions
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Jason Peters is returning to the Philadelphia Eagles – once again. But he’s not necessarily going straight to left tackle, the position he’s manned for the past 16 seasons. The veteran offensive lineman re-signed to play offensive guard, according to the Eagles, who announced the one-year deal Tuesday afternoon. Adam Caplan of Inside the Birds confirmed that Peters’ deal is for $3 million with a chance to make $6
million total – roughly the same he made last year.
Caplan and I will dish more intel on the signing, and the organization’s thinking, in Thursday’s edition of Inside The Birds. For now, Peters’ return provides an answer for an Eagles offensive line that already lost right guard Brandon Brooks to a torn Achilles, but also comes with questions worth exploring. 1. Can Jason Peters hold up at right guard? The 38-year-old Peters – yes, 38 – missed three starts last season, came out of several games in 2018 and played just seven games in 2017 before suffering a torn knee ligament that ended his season. At guard, Peters will have more collisions against larger defensive linemen and less space with which to work. Most defensive tackles weigh in the neighborhood of 300 pounds or beefier. Most edge defenders – the ones Peters faced – fluctuate between about 270 to 300 pounds. The biggest challenge for Peters will be holding up for the course of 16 games. There are also defense-reading and line-setting responsibilities at guard, especially on the road, that Peters will have to handle for the first time in his career – although silent counts probably won’t be necessary if there aren’t fans in the stands.
(Jason Peters is back for his 12th season with the Eagles, but will play guard for the first time)
2. Will the offense change with Peters at right guard? Athleticism has always been Peters’ calling card. His career started with the Bills as an undrafted rookie tight end. But at his age, you wonder if the Eagles can do as much pulling and outside zone with Peters in the run game as they might have planned. Remember, the team hired former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, a Kyle Shanahan disciple, in hopes of incorporating some Shanahan-style run concepts involving misdirection and outside zone. Now they’re asking Peters to hold up on the inside against bigger linemen and potentially do more lateral movement than he would usually do at left tackle. Doug Pederson might have to make scheme adjustments to account for Peters' durability. 3. Is all this just a veiled way of ensuring Peters will start left tackle? It feels like the Eagles are really bringing in Peters to “perhaps” compete with Pryor at right guard but also be “available” in case Andre Dillard really struggles at left tackle. Remember, the Eagles had been talking to Peters about coming back even before Brooks tore his Achilles. There was never an easy way to bring back Peters and still commit to Dillard. But now there's a built-in excuse to make the move if Dillard struggles. Wouldn't it be odd if Dillard wasn't playing consistently while Peters, a future Hall of Fame tackle, is out there trying to play guard? 4. Are the Eagles too fixated on Peters? Most teams would be crucified for hanging onto a 38-year-old player at any other position, except for Tom Brady. The sorry state of offensive line play in the NFL allows the Eagles to make this move without looking desperate and clingy. Peters isn’t what he used to be, but he was still one of the league’s better linemen last season, even with flaws. But the Eagles have touted their draft-and-develop approach since Howie Roseman’s return to power in 2016. They’ve drafted and signed several offensive linemen over the past few years – Pryor, Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta and others. They have an offensive line coach who they feel is one of the league’s best. If they truly believe in their ability to draft and develop, what are they scared of? Pryor played decently enough in his first NFL start last year against Seattle to see some upside. Sitting him another year will only stunt his development, even though he’s likely to see plenty of snaps when Peters comes out of games. But Pryor can’t fully develop unless he’s in there every day, taking first-team reps and getting game action. 5. Are the Eagles better? Yes, they’re better. The lack of an experienced lineman to replace Brooks was one of the team’s most glaring holes, arguably it’s most obvious void. Peters’ presence allows Pryor to move into the Big V role and ensures that someone with no NFL experience – second-year pro Nate Herbig or rookie Jack Driscoll – isn’t next-man-up if there were another injury on the interior. But … simply signing another veteran to a 1-year veteran minimum contract could’ve solved the same problem. 6. Are the Eagles done making improvements? Doubtful. Peters’ salary isn’t prohibitive. The Eagles are still well under the cap for 2020, although they’d like to carry over as much cap space to 2021 for extra relief. They still have question marks at linebacker, backup running back and in the secondary. Roseman is never afraid to be aggressive.
Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is a longtime Philadelphia Eagles and NFL reporter and co-host of Inside the Birds. Catch the latest "Inside the Birds" podcast here: