The Philadelphia Eagles made a pair of monumental changes on their coaching staff when they promoted Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. In the place of Castillo, they hired Howard Mudd out of retirement, a coach with 36 years of experience under his belt.
In Philadelphia, he had the challenge of reviving an offensive line that used to rank as one of the best in the league, back in the days of Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, and Shawn Andrews, but had struggled recently, especially in the 2010 season.
Mudd had the privilege of using a first round draft pick on an offensive lineman, and he (and the Eagles) selected Baylor lineman Danny Watkins, who was immediately penciled in as the starter at right guard.
Mudd also brought in former Denver Broncos standout Ryan Harris to be the team’s right tackle, but Harris couldn’t stay healthy during training camp and was eventually released. Journeyman veteran Evan Mathis was originally signed to be a backup but he ended up earning the starting spot at left guard after veteran Todd Herremans moved to right tackle.
Only four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters remained a starter at the same position as the previous season heading into 2011.
Kelce improved week by week but Watkins was benched before the season. In his place, the Eagles signed Kyle DeVan, who had been with the Colts (and Mudd) in 2010. He started the season’s first four games at right guard until he was mercifully cut, making Watkins the starter for the season’s final 12 games.
But things started clicking and by the end of the season, the offensive line ranked as one of the better ones in the NFL.
Peters turned in arguably his finest season yet. Mathis emerged as the surprise player of the year, rating as the single best offensive lineman in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Kelce improved week by week, as did Watkins, and both will only continue to get better each season. And Herremans showed his versatility by succeeding at a position he had not played in six years.
The majority of the credit for the offensive line should go to Mudd, who will be back with the Eagles for the 2012 season.