Andre Dillard explains what it's like to be guided by a living legend

Andre Dillard explains what it's like to be guided by a living legend

From the time Andre Dillard arrived to Philadelphia in April, he began to understand the Legend of Jason Peters.

Because Peters is more than a 37-year-old football player. He’s more than a future Hall of Famer. Inside the NovaCare Complex, he’s more of a revered Paul Bunyan-like character.

And Dillard couldn’t wait to meet him.  

Before I ever met him, he seemed like a mythical creature,” Dillard said with a smile to NBC Sports Philadelphia last week. “Through all of rookie minicamp and OTAs and all this stuff, everybody would be talking about him, coaches and players included. And I just never saw him until mandatory minicamp showed up. I didn’t really think he was a real person to be honest with you.

Not only is Peters a real person, he’s a real person who is already helping to teach the guy everyone expects to one day replace him. Often during training camp practices, between reps, Peters is seen taking Dillard to the side and teaching him technique, offering tips, trying to make him a better player.

Head coach Doug Pederson noted that it’s not Peters’ job to coach Dillard — they have coaches — but mentioned it’s a great sign to see that Peters has taken Dillard “under his wing.” Sometimes a tip from a veteran means just as much as a directive from a coach.

This isn’t the first time Dillard has listened to an older teammate either. One of the first times was early in his career at Woodinville High School, when he was learning from two-year starter Devin Dietrich, who went on to play for the University of Montana. Dillard’s high school offensive line coach Mike Monan, who was with a trio of Dillard’s HS coaches at practice this week, said he always stressed to his veteran players to teach the young guys and watched how much it helped a young Dillard. That’s why he knows how much learning from Peters can help him now.

“A huge opportunity for him to learn,” Monan said to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday. “Andre’s a sponge. He’s just going to collect all the information he can and put that into his mind and crank it out. He lives and breathes to be the best offensive lineman he can. He’s done that for me since way back when and he’s continued it to get to here. Working with Peters is awesome for him.”

For Peters, some of this is giving back what he once received. He said he had a “big list” of teammates who helped him when he was a young player in Buffalo, naming Jonas Jennings and Mike Williams. Peters has always been willing to help younger players, but over the last few years, he’s become a little more vocal and a little more proactive, often pulling guys to the side like he’s been doing with Dillard.

It might seem strange that Peters is essentially teaching the guy who is expected to replace him, but Peters doesn’t think it’s odd. He knows the situation.

“We’re just renting,” Peters said. “You’re just renting a spot and when they get ready to get you out of there, they draft somebody high, whether it’s a year out, two years out. They’re gonna put him in there at some point.”

That’s the kind of wisdom a 37-year-old veteran can offer a 23-year-old rookie.

This student-teacher relationship works two ways. Sometimes, Dillard will go to Peters with a question. Other times, Peters (and Lane Johnson too) will seek out Dillard if they see an area on the field or on tape where a technique tweak could help.

What’s the best bit of advice Dillard has gotten from Peters?

It’s not even something technical.

“He told me you really have to train your mind and body,” Dillard said. “Always do things full speed, even if it’s little things. So when you get in those live situations, you’ll be ready for that as opposed to having to speed up from what you normally do. Really just treat everything professionally and give it your best.”

While it seems like Peters might not be ready to retire even after this season, it also seems like the Eagles have their succession plan in place. They traded up to No. 22 to get Dillard and if he progresses the way they hope, he should be the left tackle of the future.

That means he would continue an impressive tradition at left tackle in Philadelphia. Tra Thomas held down that post from 1998-2008 and Peters took over the next season. If Dillard works out, we’re talking about three decades of strong left tackle play with three guys.

That isn’t lost on Dillard either.

“It means the world to me that I’ve been given the opportunity to do it,” Dillard said. “Now it’s up to me to fulfill that task and get ready for that spot. It’s just a really exciting time for me.”

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Eagles reportedly have a new secondary coach

Eagles reportedly have a new secondary coach

Marquand Manuel is the Eagles’ new secondary coach, according to a tweet by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

The 40-year-old Manuel replaces Cory Undlin, who had served in that role since 2015, first under Chip Kelly and the last four years under Doug Pederson. Undlin was named Lions defensive coordinator two weeks ago.

Manuel and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz go back a ways. Manuel played for the Lions in 2009 when Schwartz was their head coach.

Manuel was not in the NFL this past year. He spent the previous four years under Dan Quinn with the Falcons, two years as secondary coach and two years as defensive coordinator before getting fired following the 2018 season.

The Falcons reached the Super Bowl in his second year in Atlanta, losing to the Patriots in Houston.

Before Atlanta, Manuel spent three years working under Quinn with the Seahawks, holding a variety of titles on the defensive staff.

Manuel, who played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, was the Bengals’ 6th-round pick in 2002 and spent eight years as a safety in the NFL with six different teams — the Bengals, Seahawks, Packers, Panthers, Broncos and Lions.

He played in 116 games, starting 58, with two interceptions and a pick-6 while he was with the Packers in 2006 off Jon Kitna of the Lions.

The Eagles also reportedly interviewed Browns defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker for the position.

The Eagles already have a safeties coach on the staff, former Eagle Tim Hauck. He was Pederson's teammate with the Eagles in 1999 and has been on Pederson's staff since 2016.

Quinn had this to say about Manuel on the Falcons’ web site back in 2018:

From the time I've met him from now, one thing that's cool to see that has stayed consistent is the energy and enthusiasm he has for players. He made the transition from player to coach really seamlessly because he knew the boundaries of coach, but he also stepped across to say, I can push you. That's not easy to do. He's always had mental quickness of a quarterback or someone who gets concepts really quickly. That transferred into this coaching fast. He can communicate concepts and ideas quickly to people on the run, in the moment, that's a really valuable asset as a coach.

The Eagles still have openings to replace the three assistant coaches Doug Pederson fired: offensive coordinator Mike Groh, wide receivers coach Carson Walch and defensive line coach Phillip Daniels.

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Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Just a few days ago, it seemed like the Eagles weren’t going to lose Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry because it looked like the Browns were going to hire someone else.

Well, that someone else has dropped out of the race.

Vikings assistant GM George Paton has taken himself out of the running to be the Browns’ next general manager, which means Berry is now the new favorite, according to Cleveland.com

This is certainly an interesting turn of events.

According to Cleveland.com, “Paton was reluctant to accept the initial interview because he assumed the job would go Berry.”

Now it might.

It would have made plenty of sense for the Browns to hire Paton, who has a long-standing relationship with new head coach Kevin Stefanski from their time together in Minnesota. But according to reports over the past few weeks, it seems like Berry has been a favorite of ownership and the front office.

While Berry and Stefanski have never worked together, they did get to know each other during the coaching search in Cleveland a year ago. After that search, the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens and Berry left for Philly. But now, Berry and Stefanski might actually get a chance to work with one another.

The Harvard-educated Berry, 32, was with the Browns from 2016-18 as their Vice President of Player Personnel before he joined the Eagles last season in a role they created for him. Berry initially came up in the Colts franchise, first as a scouting assistant and finally as a pro scouting coordinator. He’s been a quick-riser in the NFL world.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles reportedly denied a request from the Panthers to interview Berry for a Vice President job. The reasoning from the Eagles was that it wasn’t a general manager position and he wouldn’t have had final say on personnel matters.

Final say is something Berry will likely never have here in Philadelphia. Despite a few missteps in recent years, Howie Roseman has pretty solid job security and he isn’t going anywhere. If Berry is going to become a GM, it’s going to be in another city. And it seems like that day might be coming soon.

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