The Eagles front office during the Reid era has always been partial to the philosophy that you win football games with your offensive and defensive lines. It has been a successful philosophy that has allowed the Eagles to reach 5 NFC championship games and 1 Super Bowl this decade. This article examines the offensive side of the trenches past and future.
The statistics of this decade prove just how important a good offensive line is for the Eagles and in football in general. In the Eagles 5 playoff appearances from 2002 through the present, they allowed an average of 33.4 sacks per season. In the two seasons that they did not make the playoffs during that stretch, they gave up 45.5 sacks per season. So the question is: How well will the Eagles offensive line hold up this year? Let us look at a man by man breakdown of what the line looks like right now.
Left Tackle Jason Peters: This is a mammoth of a man for a LT weighing in anywhere from 340-350 lbs. There has been much discussion in the Eagles fan base about whether or not Peters is worth the heavy price tag that pulled him away from the Bills. From all reports from Eagles mini-camps and OTAs, Peters is motivated and looking sharp while picking up the new blocking schemes. It would be his benefit to bring that work ethic into the season because Philly fans will not tolerate a season like he had last year in Buffalo where he gave up double digit sacks. But where Peters does upgrade the line is with his run blocking. He will open holes consistently on the left side of the line, giving Westbrook more running room than last year.
Left Guard Todd Herremans: Herremans is another large man, even for an offensive lineman. He has had some up and down seasons over the past couple of years but this past year was definitely a good one for him. He is a sound interior pass protector and gets decent push off of the line when run blocking. If he plays like last year, Herremans and Peters will be a formidable pair on the left side of the Eagles offensive line.
Center Jamal Jackson: Jackson is an adequate center but no more. He occasionally struggles to get to linebackers on running plays but does work well with Herremans in pass protection. If he can show more consistency in run blocking, he will really help this team in their short yardage situations because less linebackers would be able to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Right Guard Stacey Andrews: Brought in from Cincinnati, Stacey Andrews is the older brother of now teammate and right guard Shawn Andrews. Stacey played right tackle for the Bengals but the Eagles feel that right guard is his more natural position. He is a prototypical mauler on the interior of the line. His drive blocking on running plays is very sound. It will be interesting to see if his knee is 100% after missing games with an ACL tear. His passing protection is decent and if he and his brother can work together well, this could be a formidable duo for years to come.
Right Tackle Shawn Andrews: This is going to be a defining year in Andrews career. It will go one of two ways. The best case is that he rebounds after struggling with injury and depression last season and plays at his All-Pro 2007 form. The worst case is that it takes time to shake off the rust or even worse, relapses and needs to take more time away from the game. Hopefully for himself and the Eagles, he is 100% mentally and physically. Another little wrinkle involving Shawn Andrews is that the team has unofficially moved him to tackle from his former guard position. When 100% Andrews was the best young guards in the league. Will he be able to transition back out to his college position of right tackle? I believe so.
So where does that leave the Eagles O-line heading into the upcoming season. Well, given the talent throughout the line, this could be one of the best lines in the NFL. The big issue last season was the Eagle's short yardage struggles. With the additions of Andrews and Peters along with the return of Shawn Andrews, short yardage should significantly improve. It will be a tough task to match giving up only 23 sacks which was the 2008 total. However, the pass protection should be more than adequate. Therefore, if the offensive line plays out like I believe it will, the Eagles will be in the playoffs yet again.