Eagles

Eagles mailbag: Where should Jason Peters play when he returns?

Eagles

The Eagles won on Thursday night and now it’s Dallas Week.

But let’s finish out the mailbag strong.

I answered most of your questions this weekend — Part 1, Part 2 — but there are still a few I wanted to get to.

As always, thanks for all the great questions:

Jason Peters is eligible to return from IR and Doug Pederson said on Friday that Peters is getting close. Whatever you think about Peters at this point in his career, getting him back will certainly help an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries.

Over the last few weeks, Doug Pederson has been asked this very question: Is Peters the left tackle when he returns? And twice now Pederson hasn’t committed to giving Peters back that left tackle position.

Here’s what Pederson said on the topic Friday:

“I think when J.P. comes back, I think that's a conversation we'll have internally to see what's best for the football team, whether it's he and (Nate) Herbig and Sua Opeta now, guard rotation, or is it J.P. back at left tackle,” Pederson said. “Those are options we have, which we haven't had many options lately. It gives us I think the best availability for these players for our offensive line moving forward.”

The tricky part of all this, of course, is that the Eagles are now paying Peters like a left tackle. And as much as he wanted a pay bump to move back to that position, he isn’t going to give it back if the Eagles decide they’re better off with him inside.

 

But ultimately, I think that’s the move that makes the most football sense. The Eagles are slightly deeper at tackle than they are at guard. Lane Johnson and Jack Driscoll are going to be back at some point and Jordan Mailata has played fairly well at left tackle.

Maybe Peters is still a slightly better left tackle than Mailata right now but if he is, the drop-off isn’t great enough to put him there, especially considering how much the Eagles need better play out of their guards. Isaac Seumalo isn’t close to a return and neither is Brandon Brooks. Nate Herbig has been fine but that other guard spot hasn’t been. Matt Pryor, Jamon Brown and Opeta have been the weakest part of the line no matter who’s out there. Plugging in Peters would solve the biggest problem for that group.

This is a totally fair point. It’s been great that the Eagles have shown the ability to come back from deficits in the last couple of weeks but digging those holes hasn’t been good.

Pederson was asked about this recently and pointed to the 2-minute offense as something that has helped them. Whenever the Eagles use their up-tempo offense it gives them some juice. We saw it in the opening drive of the Giants game and then late in the fourth quarter. It would be great if the Eagles could use it all the time and always get that rhythm, but they can’t really do that. Because quick 3-and-outs would eventually wear down their own defense. Think back to the Chip Kelly days.

The Eagles are banged up offensively but this still comes down to two people. Pederson has to be better as a play-caller and Carson Wentz can’t afford to make mistakes. The Eagles left too many points on the board on Thursday and against better teams that simply won’t fly.

The most important thing John Hightower has shown me in the last couple games is a short memory. He has three drops this year — big drops — but he hasn’t let that ruin his rookie season. He has remained confident and the Eagles have remained confident in him. And that confidence has been rewarded by several big plays already this season.

Hightower has caught two bombs in the last couple of weeks and he also had that huge catch on 4th-and-4 earlier in the season.

Aside from the mental aspect, Hightower has shown he can get open. If a receiver in the NFL can get open, he’s going to see passes come his way. I think Hightower is more than just a deep threat but if that’s what he gets right now, that’s fine. He’s still a work in progress and he still needs to work on his hands and tracking the ball, but I’ve been impressed.

 

In this scenario, we’re talking about a top-10 pick. The Eagles need plenty of help at several positions. While I think we’d all agree the Eagles need help at linebacker, I don’t anticipate them going that route. They could go with an offensive lineman but top 10 is early for guard. Maybe they go with tackle but they still have Mailata and Andre Dillard.

Without getting into specific players, the position that makes the most sense to me is edge rusher. I know they have some depth there right now but that position’s future is really murky in Philly. Brandon Graham is playing great but he’s 32. Derek Barnett is on an option year next season, so the Eagles will have a decision to make. Vinny Curry is 32. Josh Sweat is a nice rotational piece. And I don’t know how good Genard Avery is.

I think the Eagles need to pick out an elite pass rusher. The last edge rusher to have double digit sacks for the Eagles was Connor Barwin in 2014. The last 4-3 DEs to do it were Jason Babin and Trent Cole in 2011. Graham is on that pace this year but the Eagles could really use a premier pass rusher.

In an earlier mailbag, I mentioned that most of the players I thought would be sell options for the Eagles — DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery — were all hurt. I didn’t mention Graham on purpose.

On paper, you’re right. There are plenty of reasons to trade Graham. He’s 32, he gets paid a lot and his trade value has probably never been higher. The big problem is that his cap hit balloons to $17 million next season. Right now, Graham has six sacks through seven games. If this was a nameless player on a piece of paper, I’d be all in on trading him.

I just can’t imagine the Eagles doing it, though. I know the Eagles have talked about moving past sentimentality when it comes to making decisions, but it’s hard to overstate how much Graham means to the team on the field and in the locker room. Trading him could be disastrous for the team this season. I think they’ll figure out a way to work out a contract in the offseason to keep him here in 2021.

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