When Jack Driscoll found out he was starting his first NFL game about two hours before kickoff in Washington in Week 1, words from Brandon Graham and the other Eagles defensive linemen comforted him.
They told Driscoll he was ready. They told him he belonged. After all, those guys went against him every day in training camp.
“I’m always confident in myself that I can do the job,” Driscoll said on Wednesday, “but hearing it from those guys before I went out there on short notice and got the start really meant a lot to me."
Driscoll, 23, was thrown into the deep end of the NFL pool in the opener and that’s kind of been his NFL experience so far. The fourth-round pick from Auburn, without the benefit of an offseason or preseason, has needed to play on short notice several times already this season as Lane Johnson tries to play through the pain and swelling of a surgically repaired left ankle.
If Driscoll had to give any advice to the next class of NFL rookies, it would probably be pretty simple:
Be ready for anything.
Like in Week 1, when he was thrown out there against four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan and No. 2 draft pick Chase Young.
Or in Week 4, when he had to enter the game and deal with veterans Arik Armstead and Kerry Hyder.
And especially in Week 5 when he again was thrust into action, this time against All-Pro T.J. Watt.
In the three games he’s played significant snaps, Driscoll has already faced some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
“I think it’s just one of those things where I’ve always been taught it’s never about them. It’s about me,” Driscoll said. “To an extent, it’s true. When you play a guy like T.J. Watt, you have to be perfect on every set, every foot, your hands have to be perfect, otherwise they’ll beat you for a sack.
“It’s something I’ve really liked playing the best guys so far … it really makes you bring your best every play, every rep, no matter what. If you’re tired after a 10-play drive, it doesn’t matter because he’ll beat you for a sack and make you look bad and embarrass you.”
Driscoll hasn’t been embarrassed, but that’s not to say he has been perfect either.
According to ProFootballFocus, Driscoll has already surrendered 3 sacks, 5 QB hurries and 10 pressures in just 105 offensive snaps. But, all things considered, he’s played OK. And he’s given the Eagles some hope that he can at least be a viable long-term option as a depth player with starter upside.
Driscoll has tackle-guard flexibility but in recent weeks he’s obviously been focusing on right tackle. He’s been taking guard reps here and there just to stay ready in case even more injuries pile up.
On Wednesday as the Eagles began to prepare for the Ravens, Johnson was not at practice, getting a day off that ankle. No one really knows if he’ll be able to play on Sunday or the next week or the week after that. Either way, the Eagles’ right tackle will have to deal with Matt Judon and Pernell McPhee on Sunday against the Ravens, another touch challenge.
So Driscoll is getting ready. And taking every rep he possibly can.
“Just dating back to the draft, it’s been such a roller coaster. … Just so many injuries and unknowns,” Driscoll said. “I think for many reasons this season’s unique. But I’ve always found that, and this is something Coach [Jeff Stoutland] preaches, at one point one of the young guys is going to have to play. Could be a receiver, could be a defensive back. Someone is going to have to step up. So I just want to be as prepared as I can so if it is my turn to step up that the team is counting on me and I’m ready to help win games.”
For Driscoll it’s not a matter of if he’ll be asked to play again. It’s a matter of when. And there’s a good chance it’ll be this weekend.