Eagles

Andre Dillard's switch from left tackle to right tackle is like trying to write left-handed

Andre Dillard's switch from left tackle to right tackle is like trying to write left-handed

How challenging is it for Andre Dillard to move from left tackle to right?

"Think about it like this," Dillard said. "You probably write with your right hand, right? So all of a sudden, say you had to write a big essay with your left hand. Right now. That's basically it. Write with your left hand. Think about how that would feel."

Dillard, a left tackle since he was 14, will make his first lifetime start at right tackle on Sunday when the Eagles face the Seahawks at the Linc.

Dillard said he's never played right tackle in a game on any level.

"Your brain kind of acts like a muscle in this case," he said. "You do one thing one way for 10 years, like I have, then everything about you is geared toward that. You flip it, your brain's like, 'Oh heck.' But this week's been a good week of preparation."

Dillard replaced injured left tackle Jason Peters in the second quarter of the Vikings game and stayed there through the Bills game, making his first three career starts and playing at a high level. Peters returned for the Patriots, but when right tackle Lane Johnson got hurt in the second quarter, it was Halapoulivaati Vaitai that entered the game at right tackle.

That didn't go so well. The Eagles, up 10-0, didn't score another point.

So Dillard spent this past week practicing at right tackle, and unless Johnson is somehow cleared through concussion protocol before Sunday, the rookie first-round pick will make his first career start on the right side against the Seahawks.

"Anytime you go from left to right side, it's a lot harder than people think," right guard Brandon Brooks said. "Not only are you flipping all the plays completely opposite but the muscle memory, your stance, everything's completely different. I have nothing but faith in Andre Dillard. Everything he's done, busting his ass out there, all the reps, all the extra time I've seen him after practice and stuff? It's different obviously. You don't replace Lane Johnson. He's a one-of-a-kind talent, a one-of-a-kind player. But at the same time, Dillard has more than enough talent. He's more than capable of handling his own out there."

The Eagles went with Vaitai to finish the Patriots game since Dillard hadn't taken any right tackle reps other than "a couple" in training camp and has never played the position.

"In the heat of the game I think Stout (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) for sure felt that Big V had more work on the right side," Jason Kelce said. "Andre, he's a tackle by trade and there's a little bit of a difference and a little bit of balance and body control that you have to get used to going on the right side, but he'll be able to get it done. He's a really athletic kid."

Now Dillard has had a full week of work on the right side, and he said the process of transitioning to a new position will continue up until game time as he watches film, works on his technique and talks to his teammates and coaches.

But so far?

"Smooth as can be," he said after practice Friday. "It's obviously going to be a challenge, but I'm up for it. I'm perfectly capable."

More on the Eagles

Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Conventional wisdom says the Eagles upgraded the wide receiver position this offseason.

Not like they had any choice.

Their wide receiver production was the worst in modern Eagles history.

• So bad that for the first time since 1966 they didn’t have a wide receiver with 500 yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have any WRs ranked in the top 65 in the NFL in yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have a receiver all year record consecutive games with at least 65 yards. 

• So bad that the five receivers that suited up for the playoff game against the Seahawks had a combined 55 career receptions.

• So bad that Doug Pederson fired Carson Walch and hired Aaron Moorehead as the team's sixth WRs coach in six years.

It was time for a total rebuild, and that’s what Howie Roseman did.

But as we wait to see what form — if any — a 2020 NFL season takes, the reality is that there isn’t a single sure thing in the restructured Eagles wide receiver corps.

Every single guy is a big, giant question mark.

There are once-great veterans. Youngsters with potential. Long shots who could be keepers.

But there isn’t one guy who you can safely say, “OK, he’s going to catch 65 passes for 850 yards and seven touchdowns this year.”

Yet the Eagles rank sixth in projected 2020 wide receiver spending at $34.1 million, according to Spotrac.

The Eagles currently have 14 wide receivers on the roster. We broke them down into five categories.

Who will wind up making the team? Who will wind up starting? Who will wind up contributing? 

How good will they really be?

A lot of projecting so far. A lot of unknowns. And a lot of hoping.

One-time Pro Bowlers

DeSean Jackson is 33 years old and Alshon Jeffery is 30. Jeffery got significant snaps in only eight games last year and Jackson in just one, although it was an explosive one. Neither has made a Pro Bowl since 2013, both are coming off serious injuries and both are at an age where even healthy receivers begin declining.

Jackson is on the books with an $8.6 million cap figure this year and Jeffery a whopping $15.45 million. The Eagles need production at those numbers. But how much can they expect from Jackson and Jeffery?

Reclamation project

The Eagles gave up virtually nothing to take speedy Marquise Goodwin and his bloated contract off the 49ers’ hands. 

But what are they getting in Goodwin? A guy who has 35 catches the last two years, has averaged 332 yards in his seven NFL seasons and has caught 30 passes just once, in his excellent 2017 season.

Goodwin has a $4.28 million cap figure, so if he makes the team, he better produce. But what does he have left? And can the Eagles get enough of a sense of what they have in Goodwin in a curtailed offseason to make that $4.28 million commitment?

Young draft picks

The real key to this wide receiving corps isn’t Jackson, Jeffery or Goodwin. It’s the 23-year-old JJ Arcega-Whiteside and the 21-year-old Jalen Reagor, the Eagles’ second- and first-round draft picks the last two years.

Reagor was the 21st pick this year and you’d expect a sizeable contribution as a rookie. JJAW was terrible last year but you’d hope for a big jump in Year 2. The reality is Roseman has never drafted an elite wide receiver. Or even a better-than-average one.

Reagor and/or JJAW have to end that streak.

Practice squad posse

Greg Ward is the closest thing to a sure thing the Eagles have, and he’s played seven games in his career. He had nearly half the catches by Eagles WRs the last seven games of the season (28 of 59). But it's still a very small body of work.

Deontay Burnett had a big 41-yard catch against the Giants — the fourth-longest catch of the year by an Eagles WR — and Ward, Burnett, Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Shelton Gibson make it Eagles six 2019 practice squad receivers currently on the roster. Can any of them really be factors?

Rookie long shots

Rookie fifth-round pick John Hightower and sixth-rounder Quez Watkins are both late-round speeders. Manasseh Bailey had a fine career at Morgan State and Khalil Tate is trying to convert from quarterback to wide out, much like Ward did after playing QB at Houston.

Hightower probably has the best shot from this group to make the team and find his way onto the field, but at this point, without OTAs or preseason games, they’re all long shots.

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New York Jets WR calls Philly a 'dirty a**, trash a** city'

New York Jets WR calls Philly a 'dirty a**, trash a** city'

While the city of Philadelphia was celebrating the birth of a nation over the weekend, a New York Jets rookie wide receiver was trashing the city where our independence became official.

Denzel Mims must have had one really bad weekend in Philly once upon a time. You may recall Mims' curious comments about Philadelphia back prior to the draft in April:

I've been to Philadelphia one time, and it was last summer, before the season. I went with a couple teammates, and my head coach. We went up there, and we just spent a lot of time together. 

The experience I had, I was very scared. I wasn't familiar with the whole city, and it was a lot going on. You see a lot of people that look scary. I'm not a part of that, I don't like that. So I mean, I had a bad experience, you could say, going up there for the first time. But I feel like if I just go there more, and I just get familiar with it, I could have a great time.

And then over the weekend while streaming a video game online, Mims doubled down with even harsher words when asked about his dislike of Philadelphia, via USA Today.

I didn't like that dirty ass, trash ass city.

I mean, to be fair, there is a problem with litter on the streets here. But still, harsh words.

Too bad there probably won't be a preseason game with the Jets this year so some defender could lay a smackdown on him.