Eagles

Andre Dillard is ready to take over Eagles’ left tackle post

Andre Dillard is ready to take over Eagles’ left tackle post

After five minutes of listening to Andre Dillard talk about his rookie season, all the ways he’s grown and how he was able to deal with a brand new situation in Philadelphia, it was time to cut through all the fluff and get to the big question. 

If the Eagles ask you to be the starting left tackle next year, are you ready? 

“Yeah,” Dillard said. “I believe that I am.”

Good enough for me. 

The reason the Eagles traded up to draft Dillard with the No. 22 pick in the spring was to replace legendary Jason Peters. And, after one year, that time has come. Sure, Peters said after the playoff loss that he wants to keep playing and would like to keep playing in Philly, but he’s going to be a free agent and the Eagles need to move on. 

It’s time for the Eagles to say thank you to the soon-to-be 38-year-old future Hall of Famer and move forward with the young first-round pick. 

Dillard, 24, had some ups and downs during his rookie season. But there’s plenty of reason to think he’s ready. 

Sure, trying to start him at right tackle in the first Seahawks game was an absolute disaster. It got so bad that the Eagles benched him at halftime and went with Halapoulivaati Vaitai instead. Based on his comments that week and his play on the field, Dillard seemed overwhelmed by the request to switch to the other side of the line. That wasn’t great. 

But in the three games Dillard played left tackle, filling in when Peters had a knee scope, the rookie played very well. In fact, it’s that three game stretch — against the Cowboys, Bills and Bears in the middle of the season — that should have everyone feeling pretty confident about the changing of the tackle.  

I’m really glad that I got those chances because that’s what I was brought in to do for the future,” Dillard said. “It helped me get my feet wet a little bit and really helped me kind of gauge what it’s like being out there on the big stage in live situations.

Dillard admitted there was an adjustment period once Peters came back. He started three games, then had to go back to working with the scout team. But he understood the situation. 

Dillard and Peters became close this year. Credit Peters because he really took his replacement under his wing. That began all the way back at mandatory minicamp and continued throughout the summer and then the regular season. Dillard said it’s a relationship that will continue. If Dillard can become the true left tackle of the future, he can continue the Eagles’ line of impressive left tackles over a three-decade period from Tra Thomas to Peters to Dillard. 

And now that his rookie season is over, Dillard is looking forward to catching his breath. He went from his last college season to pre-draft prep to the NFL season without much down time. 

Transitioning from college life in Washington to the pros in Philly wasn’t always easy. 

“One of the biggest differences I noticed was the people,” Dillard said. “You’re at Washington State, Pullman, Washington, kind of countryside, middle of nowhere. You kind of know everybody; everybody is nice to each other, just super friendly. Then you come here and your own fans say just foul things to you. Everybody, fans, media, they’ll hate you one minute and love you the next. That’s the big difference that I learned. Just going from small city to big city in itself, it’s a lot different.” 

A lot of the work Dillard did this season was in the weight room. He still weighs 320 pounds but his focus has been on changing the composition of that weight, getting stronger. 

This year, he learned a lot about his body, about technique, about how important the mental side of the NFL and finding a routine can be. 

So how much better of a player is he now after his rookie season?  

“I can’t even describe it,” Dillard said. “I’ve made my biggest jump by far as a player in my first year here. It’s been an incredible learning experience.”

Come next season, it’s time to put those lessons to use. 

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Redskins sign Eagles Super Bowl starter Ronald Darby

Redskins sign Eagles Super Bowl starter Ronald Darby

The Eagles will now see Ronald Darby twice a year. Which is about how often they’ve seen him the last few years.

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but Darby, who missed 22 games in his three years with the Eagles, agreed to terms of a one-year, $4 million deal with the Redskins Sunday, according to ESPN.

The Eagles acquired Darby from the Bills just before the 2017 season for Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick in 2018. Darby missed nine games with an ankle injury before returning to the starting lineup and playing at a high level down the stretch as the Eagles went on their Super Bowl run.

He suffered a torn ACL that cost him the last seven regular-season games and the postseason in 2018 and missed five games last year with hamstring and hip injuries.

Darby, who won a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, had six interceptions as an Eagle, the most by any Eagles cornerback during the Doug Pederson Era.

At his best, he was a speedy, aggressive playmaking corner, but the Eagles just did not see that player very often, especially the last two years.

The Eagles went into the offseason committed to revamping the secondary, and they never had any intention of re-signing Darby, who made $5.625 million last year.

In Washington, Darby will be playing for new head coach Ron Rivera. The Redskins signed Kendall Fuller as a free agent but traded Quinton Dunbar, who started 11 games at corner for the Skins last year, to the Seahawks last week.

Darby is the seventh Eagles’ unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere, following Halapoulivaati Vaitai [Lions], Jordan Howard [Dolphins], Kamu Grugier-Hill [Dolphins], Malcolm Jenkins [Saints], Nelson Agholor [Raiders] and Richard Rodgers [Redskins]. All but Howard were members of the 2017 Super Bowl team.

The Eagles made no effort to re-sign any of them.

Of the Eagles’ 15 free agents, only Jason Peters, Nigel Bradham, Vinny Curry and Josh McCown remain unsigned. The Eagles brought back Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod, Nate Sudfeld and Hassan Ridgeway.

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Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

When the Eagles signed Will Parks, who grew up at 2nd and Allegheny and attended since-shuttered Germantown High School, it got me wondering how many Philadelphia natives have played for the Eagles.

The answer is not many. Especially recently.

Going back to 1940, we found 14 Philly natives who played in at least one regular-season game for the Eagles.

We’re not including players from the suburbs [Vince Papale, Josh Adams, Matt Bahr] or Philly natives the Eagles drafted who never got into a game [Raheem Brock, Steve Ebbeke].

Anybody missing?

SHAREEF MILLER [2019]: You don’t have to go very far back to find the last Philly native to play for the Eagles. Miller, their 4th-round pick last year, graduated from George Washington High up in Somerton, and he did play for the Eagles last year – two special teams snaps against the Bills.

BRUCE PERRY [2005-06]: Perry, also a George Washington graduate, was the Eagles’ 7th-round pick in 2004. He played five games with the Eagles and had 16 career carries. On the last day of the 2005 season, he ran 15 times for 70 yards against the Redskins, a 4.7 average. He never had another NFL carry.

UHURU HAMITER [2001-02]: Hamiter was a defensive end who played at Mastbaum High in Kensington, leading the Panthers to the 1996 Public League championship. After playing at Delaware State, he went undrafted in 1998, but he signed with the London Monarchs of the World League and had seven sacks. The Eagles brought him into training camp that summer, and although he didn’t make the roster, he did resurface in 1999 with the Saints and played five games. He returned to Philly and played in eight games.

CHUCK WEBER [1959-61]: Weber went to Abington High, but he grew up in Philly, so we’ll keep him in the Philly section. Weber was actually the Eagles’ middle linebacker in 1960, when Chuck Bednarik played outside. Weber had six INTs in 1960, most by an Eagles linebacker until William Thomas had seven in 1995. In a 1960 game against the Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl he became the first linebacker in NFL history with three INTs in a game. He remains one of only six Eagles with three interceptions in a game and the only linebacker. Kurt Coleman is the last to do it.

EDDIE BELL [1955-58]: Bell went to West Philadelphia High and played at Penn. The Eagles drafted him in the 5th-round in 1953, and Bell, one of the first African-Americans to play in the NFL, had nine INTs in four seasons with the Eagles before spending time in the CFL and then the AFL with the New York Titans, who eventually became the Jets.

JOHN MICHELS [1953]: Not to be confused with the John Michels who was once traded for Jon Harris, this John Michels was a guard who went to West Catholic and then played at Tennessee. He was a 25th-round draft pick in 1953 and played 11 games for the Eagles.

JESS RICHARDSON [1953-61]: Richardson was from East Falls and went to Roxborough High. He was the Eagles’ 8th-round pick in 1953 as a defensive tackle out of Alabama. Ray Didinger tells me Richardson grew up blocks away from the Kelly family and was friends with Grace Kelly, who became Princess of Monaco. He played nine of his 12 NFL seasons with the Eagles, made a Pro Bowl in 1959 and started on the 1960 NFL Championship team.

WALT STICKEL [1950-51]: Stickel went to Northeast High and played at both Tulsa and Penn before the Bears drafted him in the 21st round in 1945. He finished his career with the Eagles, playing in 11 games.

MIKE JARMOLUK [1949-55]: Jarmoluk, an interior lineman, attended Frankford High and Temple and was drafted by the Lions in 1945 before finishing his 10-year NFL career with the Eagles.

BILL MACKRIDES [1947-51]: Mackrides played at West Philly and Nevada and was the Eagles’ 3rd-round pick as a QB in 1947. He spent all but three games of his six-year career with the Eagles and was a backup on two NFL Championship teams. He threw 15 touchdown passes.

BERT KUCZYNSKI [1946]: Kuczynski went to Northeast High and Penn and played in one game for the Eagles.

MIKE MANDARINO [1944-45]: A West Catholic and La Salle grad, Mandarino played in 13 games for the Eagles in the 1940s.

BUCKO KILROY [1943-55]: Kilroy grew up in Port Richmond and attended Northeast Catholic and played college ball at both Notre Dame and Temple and also served in the Merchant Marines before spending his entire 13-year NFL career as an interior lineman with the Eagles, often playing both ways. He started 103 games for the Eagles, playing on both the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship teams and was named to the NFL’s Team of the Decade for the 1940s. After his playing career, Kilroy spent nearly 50 years as an NFL executive, including 37 years with the Patriots.

JACK FERRANTE [1941, 1944-50]: Great story. Ferrante grew up in South Philly and then West Philly and briefly attended high school somewhere in the city, although nobody seems to remember exactly where. He left school to work during his sophomore year and was only 18 when he starting playing semi-pro football. After earning a local reputation, he got a tryout with the Eagles in 1941. He played three games and caught two passes, then got another tryout in 1944, and this time he stuck. Ferrante wound up spending the next seven years with the Eagles, catching 169 passes for 2,884 yards, 31 TDs (tied with Brent Celek for 12th-most in Eagles history) and a 17.71 average (7th-best in Eagles history) while starting for the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship teams.

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