Over the last month, Jordan Mailata has played at an extremely high level as the Eagles’ left tackle, but Doug Pederson isn’t ready to say Mailata projects as the full-time starter at that position just yet.
For one main reason: Andre Dillard.
On Wednesday, Pederson said it would be “unfair” to Dillard to call Mailata the future starter.
“I don’t know. We haven’t really fully seen Andre Dillard either at that spot,” Pederson said on Wednesday. “It’s hard to sit here today and say that he’s … he’s helping himself. I will say that.
“Jordan has played well enough to maybe compete at that spot. But I think it’s a little unfair to sit here and say he’s a full-time starter moving forward without seeing enough of Andre, who we obviously drafted to take that spot.”
The Eagles last year traded up in the first round to draft Dillard out of Washington State. The plan was to have him replace Jason Peters and become the starter this season but Dillard went down with a torn biceps during training camp and lost the entire 2020 season. Not his fault.
So this seems like we might be heading toward a competition in training camp next year between the first-round pick with a lot of promise and a seventh-round project who has already come an incredibly long way.
If it’s a fair competition, it’s not hard to see Mailata winning it.
In his last three starts since the Eagles finally pulled the plug on Peters at left tackle, Mailata has had three solid games against some really good pass rushers. He hasn’t given up a sack in the last three games and has surrendered just five total pressures, according to ProFootballFocus.
We don’t have much of a body of work from Dillard to look back on from his rookie season. But in his three starts at left tackle in place of Peters, Dillard gave up three sacks and nine pressures.
But for the sake of fairness, Dillard really worked to improve his strength this past offseason. He added a ton of bulk and several of his teammates and coaches were bullish about his second NFL season before he tore his biceps in the summer.
As far as problems go, the Eagles have a pretty good one here. Because if they really have an open competition, then they’ll end up with a pretty good left tackle. Of course, the fear here is that the Eagles slant the competition so that Dillard wins it all because they drafted him in the first round and Mailata in the seventh. That shouldn’t happen.
The Eagles should just be focused on finding their left tackle of the future and it could be either guy. Even though Dillard was drafted the year after Mailata, he’s actually older. Dillard turned 25 in October and Mailata won’t even turn 24 until March.
Another layer to this is their contract situations. Mailata’s final year under contract is 2021, while Dillard is under contract through 2022 and the Eagles can then exercise a fifth-year option year.
And you can also factor into the decision the fact that Mailata can play on either side of the line and has value as a swing tackle, whereas Dillard was a disaster when they tried to move him to right tackle last season.
But forget all that. The Eagles just need to pick the better player and then figure out the rest.
It’s amazing to think about how far Mailata has come in just a few years. The Eagles have turned the 6-foot-8 rugby player into a legitimate NFL offensive tackle, one good enough to possibly take a job from a first-round draft pick.
Still, the Eagles seem determined to let that competition play out.
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