Jason Peters was coming off arguably the best season of his outstanding career. Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans both played at a Pro Bowl level for 16 games, and rookies Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins showed growing pains but also made significant strides by December.
Then the worse possible scenario happened: Peters tore (and then re-tore) his Achilles tendon in March, all but guaranteeing he won’t see the field until 2013, and then Kelce suffered a season-ending injury in week two against the Baltimore Ravens.
That’s 40 percent of the offensive line gone right there. Watkins hasn’t improved like the Eagles expected when they made him a first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and Mathis has looked lost (in between penalties) without Peters by his side.
And to make matters worse, quarterback Michael Vick has looked as inexperienced as ever out there, at times holding the ball for what seems like an eternity before taking a late hit.
The Eagles had to have known they couldn’t just replace a perennial Pro Bowler like Peters who was talented in all aspects of the game, namely his ability to get 25 yards downfield and take out a linebacker on a screen pass to LeSean McCoy.
But they thought they were getting at least a league-average blindside protector when they lured Peters’ replacement in Buffalo, Demetress Bell, over to Philadelphia. Bell played so poorly in training camp that he lost his job to former seventh-round pick and career backup, King Dunlap.
Dunlap has since been injured, meaning Bell was thrust back into action, and he all but simulated the role of a turnstile in the Eagles’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. Bell surrendered a whopping seven quarterback hurries while committing two penalties. I’m sure Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck will all but have a field day against Bell.
Dunlap isn’t much better than Bell, if at all, and sooner or later, the Eagles are going to have to see what fifth round pick Dennis Kelly can do. I doubt Kelly will be the savior the team has been needing, which means the 2012 Eagles could be scrambling for a left tackle all season without finding the one guy that can stick.