Philadelphia Eagles rookie defensive lineman Joe Ostman has apparently been one of the most important players on the team for the last three or so weeks.
Well, not on game days, mind you.
For the record, Ostman has spent the entire season on the Eagles practice squad. His job, to a lesser extent, is to serve on the scout team each week and double as the Eagles’ opponent during practice.
And at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, his assignments for the past month has been to mimic the role of Rams defensive tackle, and probable defensive player of the year, Aaron Donald, the Texans’ J.J. Watt, and the Bears’ Khalil Mack to help the offensive line prepare for that week’s game.
"He gives us great looks and really that's where it starts," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said at his Monday press conference following the team’s 16-15 victory in Chicago in the wild-card round. "Our guys really, as I said, they do embrace it."
The Eagles offensive linemen, according to Pederson, have handled Ostman during the week, and they are getting the job done against the real guys, too, on Sunday.
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The Eagles front four has barely buckled while facing the top pass rushers in the NFL. Donald, Watt, and Mack, who combined for 44 sacks during the regular season, each failed to sack quarterback Nick Foles.
"I think they rise to the occasion, and they rise to the challenge," Pederson said. "Any time that we hear a lot about our opponent, especially the guys up front – and listen, we have played a lot of really good defensive linemen this year - it just seems like our guys have really embraced that opportunity and embraced the challenge."
While most of the focus has been on the talent of their opponents’ defensive lineman, it’s easy to forget the Eagles have one of the top O-lines in the NFC.
Left tackle Jason Peters has been to nine Pro Bowls and is likely headed to the Hall of Fame one day. Right tackle Lane Johnson went to his first Pro Bowl last year, while guard Brandon Brooks and center Jason Kelce were named to the Pro Bowl this season. Veterans Stefen Wisniewski and Isaac Seumalo have shared the other guard spot and played well.
Ironically, the line is the healthiest it’s been all year. Other than Brooks, each player has missed either significant snaps or multiple games due to injury, but they all look as vigorous as one can in January, especially Peters.
Although the soon-to-be 37-year-old suffered a biceps injury in October and an ankle injury in early December, he played Mack one-on-one and didn’t yield much at all.
"He’s a professional," Pederson said. "He gets himself prepared, probably more mentally during the week than physical. And, he’s an All-Pro left tack in my mind and he continues to play at a high level."
So, who is Ostman this week? He is Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who enters Sunday’s divisional playoff game as the owner of 12 sacks and a reputation of making life miserable for offensive linemen.
However, expect the undersized Ostman to do his job impersonating the Saints 6-foot-4, 287-pound Pro Bowl selection. The Eagles offensive line hopes to continue its streak on Sunday of shutting out another NFL sack machine.