Andre Dillard wasn’t playing well enough. And he knew it.
And that’s what sets him apart from other Eagles offensive linemen who started out slowly but never evolved.
Jason Kelce said it was Dillard’s realization that he needed to improve combined with the physical tools he already had that got him where he is now: An effective left tackle who has revived his career in Year 3.
Kelce has seen a lot of offensive linemen come and go in his 11 years here. And on Tuesday, the always thoughtful and eloquent Kelce explained why some have succeeded and some have failed and why Dillard falls into the first group.
“I played with guys that haven’t realized their potential and certainly have played with guys who have and probably the biggest thing that most of the guys that realize their potential or continue to get better is they have a very realistic assessment of who they are as a player and where they are,” Kelce said.
“Their confidence isn’t so bad that they don’t think they can do it and it’s not so great that they’re not aware of how bad they’re playing, so I think awareness is really where it’s at and you have to really truly know as a player, was that good or was that bad? Was that what I was supposed to do on this play or was it not?
“While you’re out there and while you’re watching the tape. And I think that most of the players that continue to get better are able to have that very realistic assessment while watching the film of, ‘OK, that’s not correct, OK that’s correct, OK, that’s not correct,’ and you put your ego aside and you’re also not destroying yourself for every little thing that you have no confidence whatsoever. You’ve got to kind of be in the middle of both of those.”
All you have to do is watch the Eagles’ offense to realize the Andre Dillard of 2021 is a different guy than the rookie 1st-round pick we saw start four games in 2019.
Dillard has started the last three games at left tackle in place of Jordan Mailata, who missed two games with an injury and then swung out to right tackle Sunday in Carolina.
It’s important to remember that players can – and often do - improve. It’s why you don’t call someone a bust after three or four starts.
Dillard may never be an All-Pro, but in the 22 months between starts – right tackle against the Seahawks in November of 2019 to Dallas two weeks ago – he clearly figured out exactly what he had to work on (strength, technique, knowledge) and transformed himself into a much-improved player.
He may never be Tra Thomas or Jason Peters, but he’s playing at a high level right now.
“Andre Dillard is playing really, really good football,” Kelce said. “Andre’s always had the physical attributes. His foot quickness, his suddenness, his size, he’s got some really, really good things, positive things, to draw on as a player.
“And I think he’s just naturally progressed. His technique has gotten better, the knowledge of the game, the awareness, he’s worked a lot with Stout and Isaac when they were next to each other about preparing and how to scout things up, so I think he’s just naturally progressed as a player.
“He’s had a lot of strengths and abilities and now it’s just starting to become more natural and executing on a higher percentage of plays.”
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