Eagles Insider

Who's left on Eagles' O-line if Jason Peters gets hurt again?

Eagles Insider
Getty Images

We’re still two and a half weeks from opening day and 40 percent of the Eagles’ offensive line is gone.

Right guard Brandon Brooks? Gone.

Left tackle Andre Dillard? Gone.

Which means the Eagles are now relying on a 38-year-old who’s had trouble staying healthy at left tackle and an untested sixth-round pick with one career start at right guard.

It’s a precarious situation, especially considering the team’s lack of veteran depth along the offensive line.

Assuming Jason Peters returns to left tackle and Matt Pryor replaces him at right guard — and that’s how the Eagles finished last season — that leaves the Eagles with these players on the bench:

Nate Herbig —  Career offensive reps: 3 Jordan Mailata — Career offensive reps: 0 Jack Driscoll — Career offensive reps: 0 Prince Tega Wanogho — Career offensive reps: 0 Julian Good-Jones — Career offensive reps: 0 Luke Juriga — Career offensive reps: 0 Sua Opeta — Career offensive reps: 0

Three career snaps combined.

 So while Peters/Isaac Seumalo/Jason Kelce/Pryor/Lane Johnson may be a fairly solid starting five, it leaves the Eagles dangerously thin if someone else gets hurt.

Which around here you kind of expect.

The big concern is Peters, who is still a really good player when healthy but does tend to get banged up.

He was limited to seven games in 2017 with a torn MCL. He started all 18 games in 2018 but missed significant snaps in five games. Then last year, he missed three games with a knee injury and missed significant snaps in two others.

 

So over the past three seasons, he’s started and finished 32 of a possible 54 games.

Those aren't great odds. Expecting Peters to get through 16 games and a postseason healthy at 38 years old is unrealistic. 

So where does that leave this offensive line?

If Peters gets hurt, there are a few options, none of them great. 

The Eagles no longer have an heir apparent who can back up anywhere like Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Lions.

Mailata, now in his third year here, has worked with the second group at left tackle during camp (and the first group when Dillard has been out) and certainly has the size, athleticism and power you’re looking for. But he’s never played a meaningful snap at any level. Do you really trust a converted rugby player to protect Carson Wentz from Chase Young and Everson Griffen?

The other options mean a lot of moving pieces, which is never ideal.

Pryor seems pretty solid and has worked at both right guard and right tackle this summer, and you may start to see him get some reps at left tackle. But he needs the work at right guard, since that’s where he’s currently the starter. And if you move him from right guard to left tackle, that means going with someone untested — probably Nate Herbig, possibly Sua Opeta or Jack Driscoll — at right guard.

Driscoll and Tega Wanogho are rookies currently running with the third team, so it’s hard to imagine either of them being ready to play tackle in the opener. Especially without preseason games. But the original plan for Driscoll was to play him at guard, so you may see him start to get guard reps to give the Eagles flexibility to swing Pryor out to left tackle if need be and get your fourth-round draft pick on the field. You can definitely hide an inexperienced rookie more at guard than tackle. Especially left tackle.

Another option would be to slide Seumalo from left guard to left tackle. He hasn’t played tackle here and he's a little undersized, but he can do it. And unlike the other options, at least he’s experienced. He’s started 31 games, including the Eagles’ last 28 at left guard. Again, this means going with Herbig, Opeta or Driscoll at guard.

There’s always the option of bringing in a veteran tackle, although at this point just about anybody with value is already on a roster. And if someone isn’t, there’s usually a pretty good reason why. And if you do sign someone, you have two and a half weeks to get him ready.

The last thing any team wants on the offensive line is a bunch of moving pieces. Especially this year. But this is the Eagles' reality, and there's no ideal answer.

The last time Peters stayed healthy for a full year was 2016. That was four years ago, and the Eagles just can’t afford to see No. 71 hobbling off the field again.