While it’s true that Jason Peters started all 16 regular season games and the two playoff games last season, it’s also true that he didn’t look like Jason Peters.
Not the Jason Peters we’ve come to know.
Aside from the fact that Peters played just over 80 percent of the Eagles’ snaps in 2018, when he was on the field, he didn’t look like the same dominant player who has spoiled Eagles fans for a decade.
Even though Peters is another year older (37) for this upcoming season, head coach Doug Pederson thinks Peters can “still be a dominant left tackle.”
Here’s what Pederson said last month about his future Hall of Fame left tackle’s chances of having a better 2019 season as he gets further away from the ACL tear that ended his 2017 season early:
I do believe that. Obviously there’s data behind that, that supports that [the second year after an ACL tear is better than the first]. Having a full offseason to recover and really be healthy. Even though he hasn’t been here (during OTAs), he’s had the rest and he hasn’t had the wear and tear on him. That’s why I do think that he can definitely regain what he had a couple of years ago, and still be a dominant left tackle. Still play for a few more years.
A few more years? OK, maybe Doug’s getting a little ahead of himself. For now, Peters and the Eagles have to worry about him getting through the 2019 season. Everything at this point in his illustrious career has to be year to year.
And there are two ways to look at Peters this season:
1. Yeah, he’s another year removed from the ACL tear and it takes time. Of course, he should be better this year. We’ve heard about how Carson Wentz didn’t have full explosion in his knee last season and the same thing was probably true of Peters too. Later in the 2018 season, despite a myriad of other injuries, Peters said he was feeling more like himself as his knee continued to strengthen. The further away from the knee injury he gets, the more back to himself he’ll be.
2. Are you kidding me? You think time is helping Peters? Time is hurting him. Steve Miller Band and Seal warned you about this! Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. Peters is 37 years old and getting older by the day. Father Time is undefeated and all that. Maybe his explosion wasn’t there in 2018, but the rest of his body started to fall apart too. He had quad and biceps injuries that plagued him for most of the season. Why would you expect that to get better now that he’s a year older?
At least this season, if Peters can’t stay healthy, the Eagles will have a better contingency plan than just plugging Halapoulivaati Vaitai in at left tackle. They traded up in the first round to draft Andre Dillard with the 22nd pick. If everything goes according to the master plan, Dillard will be a backup in 2019 and then take over the left tackle spot in 2020 and hold it for the next decade. But if Peters can’t get through this season, the Dillard Era could start a little prematurely. That would be OK, but the Eagles brought Peters back at a discounted rate to play this season.
Peters was born on Jan. 22, 1982, so he’ll be 37 years old for the entirety of the 2019 season. There are just 11 active players (still on NFL rosters) older than him. Five of those 11 are quarterbacks, three are long snappers, one’s a kicker. There are just two other position players older than Peters: TE Ben Watson and OT Andrew Whitworth.
Here’s that full list of players:
K Adam Vinatieri - Dec. 28, 1972 (47)
QB Tom Brady - Aug. 3, 1977 (42)
LS John Denney - Dec. 13, 1978 (41)
QB Drew Brees - Jan. 15, 1979 (40)
TE Ben Watson - Dec. 18, 1980 (39)
QB Eli Manning - Jan. 3, 1981 (38)
LS L.P. Ladouceur - March 13, 1981 (38)
QB Matt Schaub - June 25, 1981 (38)
LS Don Muhlbach - Aug. 17, 1981 (38)
QB Philip Rivers - Dec. 8, 1981 (38)
OT Andrew Whitworth - Dec. 12, 1981 (38)
Whitworth is about a month and a half older than Peters and has had a nice career. Kind of a late-bloomer, Whitworth has spent the last two years with the Rams, missing just one game. He didn’t make it to a Pro Bowl last year, but had made the previous three. He’s about the same age as Peters and although he hasn’t had the same caliber career, he’s been able to play at a high level deep into his 30s.
Most people seem to agree Peters is heading to Canton one day, so let’s take a closer look at Hall-of-Fame offensive linemen who have played at 37 or older in the modern era:
C Kevin Mawae: 2009 (38), 2008 (37)
OG Bruce Matthews: 2001 (40), 2000 (39), 1999 (38), 1998 (37)
OG Randall McDaniel: 2001 (37)
OT Jackie Slater: 1994 (40), 1993 (39), 1992 (38), 1991 (37)
C Mike Webster: 1990 (38), 1989 (37)
C Mick Tingelhoff: 1978 (38), 1977 (37)
OG Gene Hickerson: 1973 (38), 1972 (37)
RT Forrest Gregg: 1970 (37)
You’ll notice that most of the members of that group are interior offensive linemen or became interior offensive linemen later in their careers. Not many tackles. Typically, to play tackle, probably even more so in today’s NFL, quickness is needed. Quickness is one of those attributes that tends to fade with age.
Basically, the point here is that it’s hard for an offensive linemen, especially tackles, to play deep into their 30s. It’s even somewhat rare for the best of the best, the guys who have made it into the Hall of Fame.
The Eagles are hoping to squeeze one more year out of an all-time great. It’s worth noting that 80 percent of Peters is still better than a lot of tackles in the NFL and it’s equally worth noting that the Eagles are in win-now mode. Their window to win championships is open right now. They have a solid backup plan, but if Peters somehow could turn back the clock and re-find his dominant form, it would only help the cause.
During training camp and the season, the Eagles will do everything in their power to limit the wear and tear on Peters’ body and prepare him to play on Sundays. We’ll find out soon enough if Pederson is right.
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