A Closer Look At The Eagles Offensive Line
It has been said time and time again that football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. The first thing I said when observing the Eagles at training camp is the season will go down the drain if the offensive line doesn't get healthy and grow together as a unit.
Anyone who watched the team during the 2009 season should conclude that they are one of the prime reasons the Eagles had an early playoff exit. Injuries plagued the O-line from the moment Todd Herremans suffered a stress fracture in his foot during training camp. The injury caused line coach Juan Castillo to do a lot of shuffling in order to put the best unit possible on the field. That tactic never really worked.
Andy Reid has made the line of scrimmage a top priority ever since he became a head coach. He has a lot of work and decision making to do to ensure the Eagles stay true to his mantra. How will he evaluate his players?
1. Jason Peters
For all of the hype, draft picks given up, and money spent for Peters, he was a huge disappointment this year. To his credit, his strength is run blocking and he was brought to a pass-addicted offense.
He has skills but he has to put it together mentally and physically. Like it or not, due the investment the Eagles made in him Peters is going to be the left tackle for a long time.
2. Todd Herremans
I didn't think Herremans was much of a factor until the first six games of this season. The O-line didn't look even remotely stabilized until he returned from his foot injury. He and Peters are going to form a powerful left side if the stay healthy together.
3. Jamaal Jackson
Before Jackson suffered a season-ending injury, I felt the Eagles should look for an upgrade or at least get some healthy competition at the center position. Until Week 16, Jackson was known for his durability and consistency.
I'd like to see the center position upgraded, but good ones are very hard to find. His season-ending injury was a huge loss going into Dallas.
4. Nick Cole
Cole handled the right guard position very well. He showed some inexperience at center when Jackson got injured.
He's a very versatile lineman who can play multiple positions. Under ideal circumstances, he'd be coming off the bench providing quality depth. He'll be a restricted free agent if a CBA agreement isn’t made by March 5.
5. Winston Justice
If there was an NFL award for Most Improved Player, Justice could’ve been placed under consideration.
His ability to handle the right tackle position made it easier to put Shawn Andrews on injured reserve. He also was good enough to be offered a four-year extension so he's not going anywhere anytime soon.
6. Max Jean-Gilles
Jean-Giles showed promise last year. In 2009, it seemed that the Eagles tried whatever they could to keep him off the field.
Injuries to the Andrews brothers, Herremans, and Jackson forced the Eagles to play him at both guard spots. I think he'll move on as a free agent this offseason.
7. Stacy Andrews
Whether or not it's because his reconstructed knee isn't fully healed, the older Andrews brother has been a bigger disappointment than Peters.
I think one big reason is because he's a better tackle (the position he was known for in Cincinnati) than guard. He could be in danger of being cut because his big contract had a very small signing bonus.
8. Mike McGlynn
McGlynn is in his second year and hasn't had the chance to make any impact on the field. I don't know too much about him but he hasn't done anything to make me believe he won't be on the team next year.
In his third year, the Eagles need to see even more of what McGlynn can bring to the table.
9. King Dunlap
Dunlap was a low risk, high reward seventh round draft pick. He's done nothing but show why he lost his starting spot to a freshmen his senior year at Auburn.
Who can forget Richard Seymour acting like Dunlap didn’t exist by running through him when the Eagles played the Raiders? Don't look for him in the NFL next year...
10. Shawn Andrews
Not too long ago, Andrews was considered the best offensive guard in the league. This year he was supposed to move to right tackle, which is what he played in college.
Problems with depression, his back, and Youtube videos have people wondering if he even wants to play football again.
What Andrews did do was give Winston Justice the opportunity to play his way to a contract extension. If Andrews plays football again, it's very likely not going to be in Philadelphia.
11. Fenuki Tupou
The fifth round draft pick from Oregon has a chance to provide quality depth next season. After spending 2009 on injured reserve, he has a chance to prove he was worth the pick.
He's probably suited best for the right side, so Tupou will likely be behind Justice on the depth chart.
12. Dallas Reynolds
After reading a scouting on him last year, I thought Reynolds could be a sleeper pick if the Eagles drafted or signed him.
The BYU Alumni is a versatile lineman, which is something Andy Reid covets. Reynolds should provide quality depth at guard and center.
13. A.Q. Shipley
Shipley was a 2009 seventh round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. After he didn’t make the Steelers final cut, the Eagles signed the former Penn State center to their practice squad.
If Jamaal Jackson doesn’t recover in time for the 2010 season, a few trends under Andy Reid’s tenure may continue. Reid has never drafted a starting center (Hank Fraley and Jackson were both undrafted rookies), which would make Shipley the highest pick if earned the spot.
Also, if Jackson is replaced, the four to five year lifespan of the starting center in Philly will continue (Bubba Miller: 1997-2000; Fraley: 2001-2005; Jackson: 2006-?)
The Eagles cannot afford to wait on the status of players under any circumstances. The starting right side of the offensive line was projected to be the Andrews brothers. Shawn’s back and Stacy’s knee never fully healed, forcing the Eagles to start Winston Justice and Nick Cole.
Justice has secured his spot at right tackle. Cole proved to be serviceable, but he should not be a full-time starter. The most uncertain position currently is right guard unless Stacy Andrews is 100 percent. Shawn’s back is too uncertain an issue to risk waiting for. The Eagles could also pursue a replacement via draft. Depending on the round an idea fit would be Mike Iupati (Idaho), Vladimir Ducasse (Massachusetts) or John Jerry (Ole Miss).
Whether Jackson recovers fully or not, the center position will be addressed with players already on the roster (Jackson, Shipley or Reynolds). Peters and Herremans will make a powerful left side as long as they stay healthy and continue to play together.
The biggest key to the Eagles 2010 success is keeping the starters on the O-line as healthy as possible. Having said that, injuries obviously are a part of the game so the reserves must be reliable and ready to go when called on.