Philadelphia Eagles Film Study: Grading the Offensive Line After Week 1
Welcome to the first installment of "Philadelphia Eagles Film Study."
I've watched and re-watched the coaches film and assigned a grade to each Eagles offensive lineman per individual play.
This column could focus on any of the position groups, but there's already enough scrutiny of the skill positions. The offensive line, however, is largely ignored, even though anyone with any sort of football IQ will tell you the five guys up front are arguably the most important aspect to the team.
Not only is it nice to shine a light on guys usually kept in the dark, but my heart will also always belong on the offensive line.
As someone who played all five O-line positions—but was never big enough to play Division I and cursed with joints made of paper that ended a career at Division II before it could begin—I've turned to studying the offensive line and the impact the unit truly has on the game.
Enough about me. Let's dive in.
How the Grading System Works
For the very worst of plays—a penalty committed, sack given up, or any awful play, in general—a grade of "-1" will be earned.
For a blown assignment, lack of effort and things of that nature, a grade of "0" will be earned.
For a successfully executed block, a grade of "1" will be earned.
A grade of "2" can be earned for a pancake block or an extraordinary effort.
It's important to note that the extremes will be reserved only for special circumstances, and the majority of the grades given will be "0" or "1."
Once the game is over, the points are added up and divided by the total number of plays, thus giving us the overall grade.
For reference, the grades break down like this:
100-95 is excellent.
94-90 is good.
89-85 is decent.
84-80 is shaky.
79-75 is bad.
74-70 is bench-worthy.
69 and below is worthy of walking papers.
There are sure to be a few kinks, but the grades are in for Week 1 and it's time to take a look at how King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans fared against the Cleveland Browns.
LT King Dunlap
Grade: 86 percent
All things considered, Dunlap played very well. He still has a lot to work on as far as his technique is concerned, but for spending the entire offseason—and even a week into the preseason—as the backup to Demetress Bell, Dunlap really held his own.
Another encouraging sign is not only how Dunlap stepped up, but when. Dunlap's best grades came in the second and fourth quarters with a 95 and 92 percent respectively.
This is a good start for The King, but he will really have to focus on improving his technique quickly. Too often he has a tendency to drop his hands to his hips—like that of an old western gunslinger—or flap his arms during his kickstep.
Stopping his feet was also an issue that presented itself several times as I watched him on film.
Dunlap is likely to get a lot of one-on-one time with offensive line coach Howard Mudd. If he really sets his mind to correcting some bad habits, I have high hopes for Dunlap moving forward.
LG Evan Mathis
Grade: 85 percent
I've been a vocal detractor of Mathis in the past, but while I was watching the first three quarters on film, I was starting to feel a little foolish.
Mathis was sticking with his blocks in the running and passing games and even helped bail out center Jason Kelce a couple times. Through the first two quarters, I graded Mathis at 89 percent in the first and 95 percent in the second.
In the third quarter, I have Mathis graded at a perfect 100 percent.
Once the fourth quarter rolled around, I was reminded as to why I was against the team re-signing him in the offseason as I graded him at a putrid 68 percent.
I have Mathis responsible for two negative plays and a penalty committed to go along with three plays where he completely blew his assignment.
Hopefully, this is an isolated incident and the rest of the season breaking him down will prove to me I was wrong about Mathis, but his showing in the fourth quarter does not give me high hopes.
C Jason Kelce
Grade: 84 percent
While the grade is nearly the same as Mathis, Kelce earned his overall mark in a different fashion.
By quarter, Kelce was graded at 89, 85, 73, and 84 percent, respectively, so his grade came with a bit more consistency than Mathis.
Quite honestly, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Obviously, it's good that Kelce performed at a high level when it counted, unlike Mathis. It would have been nice to see Kelce at least break into the 90s at some point.
The only negative marks for Kelce came on a holding penalty and once when he was absolutely dominated by Jabal Sheard, allowing him to bat away a Michael Vick pass. He also got a few zeroes for allowing pressure.
One thing really stood out about Kelce: his ability to pull and get to the second level in the running game. The Eagles should start taking advantage of his athleticism more by getting him out in space in front of LeSean McCoy rather than asking him to constantly keep Vick's line of vision clear in the passing game.
RG Danny Watkins
Grade: 92 percent
Watkins catches a lot of heat from the Philly fans and media, but I've been a fan since the first day he took the field for them last season.
While he has yet to really shine and show that first-round ability by plowing people over and bringing the nastiness we all heard about when he was coming out of Baylor, Watkins does not make mistakes and remains consistently solid throughout the game.
Against the Browns, Watkins scored his lowest grade in the first quarter—an 83 percent. From there, he recorded a 95, 91, and 96 percent in the final three quarters.
Watkins did not have a single negative play, and I recorded only six times where he did not fulfill his assignment or block his man.
RT Todd Herremans
Grade: 74 percent
It's hard to know where to begin with Herremans. To say he had a rough day would be a hilarious understatement.
In fact, it's almost as funny as saying he's worth the $21-million extension the team gave him in the offseason.
Herreman's best grade came in the third quarter at 91 percent. That was the only bright spot and, not coincidentally, the quarter in which the Eagles ran the fewest amount of plays. The first, second, and fourth quarters brought grades of 67, 75, and 72 percent, respectively.
Herremans recorded only one negative play—a missed block in the second quarter that forced Vick to throw the ball prematurely and resulted in one of his four interceptions—but I recorded a whopping 17 times Herremans either missed his assignment or was unable to block his man.
I'm not exactly sure what the problem was, but several times Herremans was unable to pick up the blitz or showed a total lack of awareness when the defensive line would move. Worse yet, there were several times he was flat out beat off the ball and clearly did not have the athleticism to make up for it.
It's hard to remember Herremans ever playing this poorly at left guard, but he's off to a train wreck of a start in his second year as the team's right tackle.