Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

Bob Cunningham@BCunningham215Senior Analyst IJuly 10, 2010

The dead days of June have come and gone. July 26th marks the beginning of Training Camp for the Philadelphia Eagles and, essentially, the beginning of the football season. But camp and the new season come with a lot of questions at every position.

First, we'll be looking at the offensive line.

Despite what anyone might tell you, it's the most important position on the field—yes, even more so than the quarterback, because even the best quarterbacks don't complete many passes from the turf.

And for the Eagles, there's going to be a lot of questions facing this front five. For example, who is going to make up the front five? Who will be the most improved, who will struggle, and will the five guys on the field be able to perform well enough for what is essentially a rookie quarterback?

Let's discuss.

Key Battle: Center (Nick Cole Vs. Mike McGlynn Vs. A.Q. Shipley)

This was fairly obvious not only because of the attention the battle has received since starter Jamaal Jackson tore his ACL late last season, but because it's the only true battle along the line.

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Personally, I believe the battle is really going to come down to McGlynn vs. Shipley because of the way Cole played at the end of the 2009 season while filling in for Jackson.

Donovan McNabb catches a lot more heat than he deserves (what? in Philly?) for the dreadful display put on by the Eagles' offense in back-to-back losses to the Dallas Cowboys. If we're going to pick out someone to blame, it should be Cole.

Or Jackson's knee, however you want to look at it.

Cole, frankly, was lost. His calls were wrong for a good portion of the game and it led to a lot of blown assignmentsespecially along the interior of the line. And one-on-one with Jay Ratliff, Cole was beaten nearly every snap. And because he couldn't hold his own, Todd Herremans and Max Jean-Gilles were caught trying to bail him out.

The extra effort they had to expend on Ratliff left the B-gap wide open for any blitzing linebacker or safety and it caused fits for McNabb all day long.

For me, putting Cole back out there to run the line would be one of the biggest mistakes Reid has ever made. The extra reps in camp could obviously result in better play, but he's shown the he's simply not strong enough to handle a noseguard and doesn't grasp the system well enough to run the line.

Whether or not McGlynn or Shipley can do what Cole couldn't is yet to be seen, but it's certainly worth a shot. Let those two battle it out and use Cole as the backup at all three spots along the interior of the line.

Result : It's difficult to opine the result of a battle between two unknowns. However, I'm guessing McGlynn is the guy who gets the nod because he's a guy Reid drafted in the fourth round, and he's been around the offense for a couple years.

The experience, however slight, should be enough to give him an edge over Shipley, who is most likely frantically attempting to master a brand new offense.

From there, short of a stint on the PUP by Jackson, it's likely Shipley loses out on a close numbers game.

Who Starts at Right Guard?

Stacy Andrews will be the starter. I don't have any doubt in my mind about that. Reid loves Cole, but Andrews is going to get the first crack at the starting spot and, barring an injury during camp, it's an opportunity I expect him to take.

Saying Andrews was a disappointment last season would be an understatement, but the talent is there and a year removed from knee surgery and entire year to learn the offense should make him the clear favorite.

What Should Be Expected of Jason Peters?

He's being paid like the best left tackle in football, and the Birds gave up a king's ransom to get him, so nothing but an absolute shut-down season should be expected of Peters.

His play last season wasn't as good as it should have been, but he also wasn't nearly as bad as people would claim.

Take for instance, the false start penalties. It seemed like Peters was always getting called for a false start, but a lot of those were the fault of the center.

When the defense jumps over into the neutral zone, it's up to the center to snap the ball and take advantage of a free play. However, regardless of who was playing the position, it never happened and it was missed opportunity after missed opportunity.

So Peters, seemingly knowing the rules better than anyone else along the line, decided he would try to draw the penalty instead. So when the defense would jump into the neutral zone, he would flinch in an effort to force a neutral zone infraction on the defense.

But for whatever reason, the referees didn't give him the call he deserved most of the time. There are times, however, that Peters' plan works and the offense is being marched up five yards. All in all, it probably comes out to a wash.

And also, if you go back and watch the tape, it becomes very clear that Peters is being blamed for sacks that truly are not his fault.

Just because the end was lined up over him at the beginning of the play and eventually made the sack does not mean it was his fault, although that's how most keep track of that stat.

In the NFL, most teams will use a zone-blocking scheme on pass plays. It simply means that every lineman is expected to pick up any guy who comes within their wing-span. So if the end loops around from the C-gap to the A-or-B-gap, he no longer becomes Peters' responsibility

So while Herremans or Jean-Gilles or Cole were left chasing tail of a man fleeing their zone, the end was allowed to come in free and clear.

Peters most certainly did not play up to par last season and a lot more should be expected of him in 2010, but the criticism is vastly overblown due to the writers doing the criticizing who don't fully comprehend what they're looking at when they're watching the games.

Bold Prediction

Winston Justice will, at the very least, be in talks as a Pro Bowl player. He might not make it because of the broken system the league uses, but at the end of the year he will be a real contender to make the Pro Bowl.

Starting Five Heading into Week One

LT: Jason Peters, LG: Todd Herremans

C: Mike McGlynn

RG: Stacy Andrews, RT: Winston Justice