Everybody remembers the disaster last season that was known as the offensive line.
It began when veteran center Jamaal Jackson suffered a season-ending triceps tear in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. It escalated when Jason Peters and Winston Justice each had to miss a couple of games. It was always a disaster for the terrible twosome of Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole. And who can forget Winston Justice getting benched against Green Bay in the playoff loss?
It’s no wonder that Michael Vick spent much of last season running for his life.
But after the 2010 season, everything was supposed to change for the better.
Offensive line coach Rory Segrest was fired and the legendary Howard Mudd was hired in his place. Danny Watkins was drafted in the first round to fill the void at right guard. Jamaal Jackson healed from his triceps tear. Former All-Pro Ryan Harris was signed to start at right tackle. And, well, everything was supposed to be better.
Recurring back injuries to Ryan Harris led to his eventual release from the team. Winston Justice, last year’s starter, was just activated off the PUP list a few days ago and is not ready to start. King Dunlap played okay in a few preseason games but he is much more suited as a backup and not a starter.
At left guard, the Eagles will be starting Evan Mathis, a 29-year old journeyman who has just seven starts over the past four seasons. Mathis didn’t allow a sack last season (in 702 plays) but he is average, at best.
At center, nine-year veteran Jamaal Jackson shockingly lost his starting job to rookie Jason Kelce, a sixth-round draft pick this year. Kelce is a perfect fit for Howard Mudd’s system but he’s still a rookie and there’s definitely some cause of concern. Personally, I think the Eagles should definitely go with Jamaal. This is a guy who two years ago was called the “most important player on the Eagles’ offense” by quarterback Donovan McNabb. Kelce is Jamaal’s replacement–there’s no doubt about that–but I think he should take over in 2012, not now.
And at right guard, the Eagles drafted Danny Watkins in the first round to specifically help protect Vick’s blind side. But Watkins held out, struggled in training camp, struggled again in preseason games, and just lost his starting job today to Kyle DeVan, who was signed a few days ago. DeVan is a Howard Mudd product and has two years of experience but he’s also completely new to the Eagles, and I think he’s going to struggle, especially early in the season.
The only comfort for the Eagles on the offensive line is that Jason Peters will enter the season starting at left tackle, as usual.
So let’s recap. The line at the beginning of training camp was supposed to look like this: Peters Herremans Jackson Watkins Harris.
Instead it looks like this: Peters Mathis Kelce DeVan Herremans.
The offensive line has not yet played together. Not one time. In fact, the four starters on Peters’ right have all changed positions or been recently named as a starter within the last two weeks.
I just don’t know what to expect. Can Herremans adjust to right tackle and play as well as he did at left guard? After all, he has experience at tackle and he’s a significant upgrade over Winston Justice, which is what you need on Vick’s blind side.
Can Peters and Mathis succeed together, like Peters and Herremans did? Can Mathis play as well as he did last season?
Who will be the veteran who helps the young guys? Will DeVan help Kelce since he knows Mudd’s system?
I just don’t know. About any of it.
This offensive line is brand spanking new.
Michael Vick spent a lot of last year running for his life, especially near the end of the season when it seemed like he took a dozen hits every game. Is the same thing going to happen this year?
How ironic would that be if the offensive line was the downfall of the team, considering the six Pro Bowlers and the enormous shopping spree the team went on this offseason?
I believe that the Eagles can succeed with below average linebackers. But not with a below average offensive line.