Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
15. Andre Dillard/Jordan Mailata
When training camp really gets underway next month, all eyes will be on the left tackle spot and the competition between Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata.
Am I cheating by combining them at No. 15? Maybe.
But only one of them will be the Eagles’ starting left tackle in 2021. And whoever ends up winning that job is going to have an extremely important responsibility of protecting Jalen Hurts’ blindside in a year that could determine the future of the franchise.
And make no mistake about it. You may be rooting for one player over the other, but there is absolutely a competition going on. And it seems pretty even.
“Oh there’s definitely [a competition],” offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said this offseason.
“And I think that anytime there is competition like that and it’s that close, it brings the best out of both players. Both players have to be on every day, all day because it’s a competition. Whoever’s the most productive and whoever does the best, whoever has the best value going into the season, will be the starter.”
Stoutland said neither player is ahead of the other and that will likely remain the case as they get to training camp. Mailata also revealed that the two players were splitting first-team reps this spring; we’ll see if that continues this summer.
When asked about what he wants to see from the player who wins the job, Stoutland said he wants that player to move in unison with the other four players on the line. With Isaac Seumalo at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard and Lane Johnson at right tackle, the Eagles’ offensive line has the potential to be one of the best units in the league.
We’ll have plenty of time to dive deeper into the actual competition, but no matter who wins the job, the fact remains that this is an incredibly important position for the 2021 Eagles. Because health aside, the biggest question on the Eagles’ offensive line is about the left tackle spot. Because of the lack of experience for both players, the left tackle spot is going to be viewed as the weakest link on this offensive line.
And this is the season the Eagles will use to really evaluate Hurts. Can he be the future franchise quarterback in Philadelphia? Well, the only way to get a fair evaluation of Hurts this season is for him to get better protection from the line.
If Dillard lives up to his first-round status or if Mailata continues to progress at his rapid rate, it could do wonders for the Eagles in 2021.
Both players obviously have potential.
Dillard was a first-round pick for a reason. While he had an up and down rookie season — playing him at right tackle was a train wreck — he’s grown a lot since then, both physically and mentally. Last offseason, Dillard bulked up and the Eagles were prepared to go into the season with him as their left tackle of the future before he tore his biceps in the summer.
The interesting thing is that Mailata was still buried on the depth chart when Dillard went down. And if Mailata didn’t take over the left tackle job last season or if he didn’t play well, there wouldn’t even be a decision to make right now. The Eagles would simply go back to Dillard and move forward with their initial plan. But Mailata played too well for the Eagles to ignore last year. And with his massive frame and projectable growth, he might be an even better option than the guy the Eagles took in the first round to take that position just a few short years ago.
This is a competition for the 2021 season but it’s also a competition that could determine the Eagles’ left tackle position for the next several years. After two decades with Tra Thomas and then Jason Peters manning that left tackle spot, one of these two guys is likely the next in line at an enormously important position.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: