Eagles offensive line preview: Depth, stars highlight a strength for Eagles
Even if they don't stay completely healthy the Eagles' offensive line has enough depth from top to bottom to be among the NFL's best units in 2017.
By and large the offensive line has been the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s continued success on the field. That shouldn’t change this season. Here's out best bet as to who makes the team in 2017:
Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson
The current starters have been declared by the coaches and their positions seem largely assured. Brooks had a fine first season in Philadelphia and the only question marks for Peters and Johnson are their ability to stay on the field. Peters had a nice recovery in this area in 2016.
Trading Allen Barbre to Denver cleared the way for the ascension of Seumalo, the Eagles’ second draft pick in 2016 and cleared some cap space, but it also robbed the Eagles of a versatile offensive lineman who had started 28 games over the past two seasons.
Most of the intrigue at the offensive line centers on how Seumalo will replace Barbre, and which players will step up to become the versatile backups needed over an NFL season.
Jason Kelce, Stephen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack
Kelce, dogged by persistent trade rumors and the fact that the Eagles could save $3.8 million on his exit, is the lone starter not assigned as a lock. Nevertheless, coaches appear committed to continuing forward with Kelce, the Eagles starter at center since his rookie season in 2011.
A Kelce exit could see a reshuffling, with Seumalo as a possibility at center and then an opening at guard. Wisniewski, who started six games at guard last season for the Birds and signed a three-year deal this off-season, also has 77 career starts at center.
Vaitai was asked to do a lot as a fifth round rookie after Johnson’s suspension began and impressed. He should be the top option as a backup tackle.
Warmack signed a one-year deal with the team this off-season and has impressed so far in camp. The former Titan started 48 games over the last four seasons for the team that took him tenth overall in 2013. With Brooks sitting out some practices at the moment, he’s been the first man in to replace him at right guard and coaches have liked what they’ve seen:
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Warmack has “Gotten better every week,” and “embraced what we do. Being reunited with (offensive line coach Jeff) Stout(land) has been a good thing.” Stoutland was Warmack’s college line coach at Alabama.
One thing Wisniewski and Warmack have going for them is their versatility. Asked about his guards, Doug Pederson confirmed “mostly it’s guys who can swing either side.” With a limited number of backup spots available, it’s important the ones the Eagles carry can cover multiple positions, and that’s what some of the next players have going against them.
Matt Tobin, Josh Andrews
Tobin has covered multiple positions for the Eagles in the past, but declined in use under the new regime in 2016 and suffered a knee injury as the season was ending.
Andrews has put in time with the Eagles practice squad and 53-man roster over the first two seasons of his career, but his guard/center role is already highly stocked on the Birds and he played just one snap in 2016.
Dallas Thomas, Taylor Hart
These guys don’t have practice squad eligibility and are unlikely to unseat the players above them for a spot on the final 53. Hart was drafted under Chip Kelly as a defensive lineman and bounced between the Eagles and 49ers last season before making the attempt to switch to offense this off-season.
Practice Squad Watch
Dillon Gordon, Tyler Orlovsky, Victor Salako, Aaron Neary
Gordon and Orlovsky are the names to watch here. Gordon was a rookie in 2016 and saw playing time in one game. Like Jason Peters, he is a college tight end converted to NFL tackle. He’s competing with Tobin for a backup tackle spot after Vaitai, and the Eagles might prefer to see what the younger player becomes. Even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster he’s a prime candidate for a second year on the practice squad.
Orlovsky was among the most notable undrafted free agents signed by the Eagles after the 2017 draft. A center from West Virginia, he would join a number of other Mountaineers on the Birds’ roster if signed. The practice squad is likely the safest bet for him as well, but he could figure into the teams’ long-term plans at center.