Doug Pederson gave Andre Dillard the strongest vote of confidence yet from anybody in the Eagles’ organization on Tuesday.
Pederson, in a Zoom chat with the Philadelphia media, said that while the Eagles have been in touch with Jason Peters, he and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland are confident in Dillard and planning for him to be the team’s starting left tackle whenever NFL football does resume.
We have a ton of confidence — I have a ton of confidence — in Andre Dillard playing that left tackle spot,” Pederson said. “This is why we drafted Andre Dillard. You look at his skill set and what he brings to our offense and what he brings to the Philadelphia Eagles it fits right in line with everything that coach Stout talks about, teaches, preaches about and what we are as an offense.
Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler and likely future Hall of Famer, has been an unrestricted free agent since March after 11 seasons with the Eagles.
The Eagles traded up three spots to No. 22 in the 2019 draft for Dillard, who started three games last year when Peters was hurt.
Pederson still wouldn't rule out bringing Peters back, but the fact that the Eagles let him go when free agency started and they haven’t moved to re-sign him yet points to a high level of confidence in Dillard.
And Pederson articulated that level of confidence Tuesday in his strongest terms yet.
With Jason Peters, listen, we’ve always said we’d stay in touch with him during the offseason and we have,” he said. “Jason Peters is a tremendous not only football player but he’s a tremendous Philadelphia Eagle, and I have a lot of respect for a guy like Jason Peters who played that left tackle position for so many years at a high level, so I have a lot of respect for his game and what he has accomplished in his career. But as we move forward, Andre Dillard was a guy we drafted to be that left tackle for us. The way Andre played last year kind of propels him into this offseason where he’s taken command of that role.
Eagles three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce spoke highly of Dillard last week but said Dillard does have to get physically stronger, and Pederson echoed that on Tuesday.
“We know — and he understands — that strength is a big part of playing offensive line, but that’s something that can be worked on in the offseason and that’s what he’s doing right now,” Pederson said. “But moving forward I’ve got a ton of confidence in Andre and getting him back and getting him in the huddle, on the grass. Our quarterback has a ton of confidence in him and that’s how we’re proceeding moving forward.”
Dillard started at Dallas and Buffalo and home against the Bears last year when Peters was shelved by a knee injury. The Eagles lost to Dallas but beat the Bills and Bears.
Pederson said Dillard’s performances in those games is something positive for Dillard to build on, although he did say a young player like Dillard will be hurt by the lack of OTAs and spring workouts.
“One of the things that you go back (and look at), he had a chance to play in a few games this past year, and he played well,” Pederson said. “Wasn’t perfect but he played well, and that’s something that as coaches we continue to grasp ahold of. He’ll have confidence going into training camp, but I think with any player, not just Andre, but if more time is missed there’s going to be probably slight setbacks. You’re going to be slower than you would be under normal, ideal situations.”
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