It’s the final full week before Eagles training camp begins so we’re taking a look at five notable camp competitions all week.
Let’s kick it off with the competition everyone is talking about: Andre Dillard vs. Jordan Mailata
All eyes will be on Jalen Hurts as the Eagles kick off their 2021 season with training camp next week, but just after Hurts, everyone will be watching the competition at left tackle. Because I don’t just view this just as a competition for the left tackle spot in 2021. This could be a battle for the right to be the Eagles’ next left tackle. The guy who wins this job could end up holding it down for the next decade.
No matter who wins this job, the left tackle is an important position. In fact, I listed the left tackle (Dillard or Mailata) as the No. 15 most important player for the 2021 season.
“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 ultimately Nick Sirianni will make the decision but Stout will have input and you better believe Sirianni will listen. Mailata said he and Dillard were splitting first-team reps in the spring. That will likely continue this summer. Not only is this a competition, but it seems to be a really fair one.
Let’s take a closer look at the competitors:
Experience: Year 3 (4 starts)
How acquired: 1st round (No. 22) in 2019 draft
The Eagles drafted Dillard back in 2019 with the goal to make him the starting left tackle once they moved on from Jason Peters. Despite seeing Dillard start four games as a rookie (there were ups and downs), the Eagles were going forward with that plan in 2020 before Dillard tore his biceps in training camp. He missed the entire season last year but it healthy now and will be fighting to take back his job in 2021.
• There’s a reason Dillard was drafted in the first round just a couple years ago. He was widely considered to be one of the best left tackles in the 2019 draft class. The Eagles never thought he’d be available in their range and when he was, they jumped at the chance to trade up from 25 to 22 to snag Dillard.
• Dillard is incredibly athletic. While he didn’t fill out his frame in college, he did fill out his spider chart based on his combine testing. Here’s a look at how her performed at the combine in 2019:
Height: 6-5 (30th percentile)
Weight: 315 pounds (56th percentile)
Wingspan: 80 3/8” (25th percentile)
Arm length: 33 1/2” (26h percentile)
Hand size: 10” (45th percentile)
40-yard dash: 4.96s (94th percentile)
Vertical jump: 29” (62nd percentile)
Broad jump: 118” (98th percentile)
3-cone drill: 7.44s (87th percentile)
Short shuttle: 4.40s (98th percentile)
Bench press: 24 reps (51st percentile)
While Dillard clearly needed to add bulk and strength, he was incredibly athletic and had (and still has) the raw tools to make folks think he could be the future.
• Over the last year or so, Dillard has shown a ton of growth. He came back to the Eagles in 2020 much heavier than 315 pounds. In fact, Brandon Brooks said Dillard was up to 335 pounds last summer. Not only did he add the strength but he also seems like a much more mature player than he was as a rookie and that’s important.
• We have a much smaller sample size from Dillard than we do from Mailata. Dillard started three games at left tackle in 2019 as a rookie and had some ups and downs. He also started that one game at right tackle and it was a complete disaster. Maybe that’s not all on him but he definitely seemed to have a defeatist attitude about the whole situation. And he was never as good in that three-game stretch as Mailata was at times last season.
• While Dillard did add some muscle and weight for last season, we never got to see him play with it and, honestly, he wasn’t having a very good camp before he got hurt last year. Maybe he was really able to add that strength and keep all his athleticism, maybe that would have showed up once the regular season began; but we’ll never know how he would have played in the 2020 season.
• We’ve heard from Stoutland and from Dillard himself about his added maturity but it’s still fair to point out that his lack of maturity and thick skin was a problem early in his career. Even after his rookie season, one of his biggest takeaways was how different life was as a football player in Philadelphia compared to life in Washington. He really let that criticism get to him, which makes you wonder if he’s really built for this city long-term.
Experience: Year 4 (10 starts)
How acquired: 7th round (No. 233) in 2018 draft
When the Eagles drafted Mailata late in the 2018 draft, he was considered a major project but that might be underselling the situation. At that time, Mailata was a 6-8, 346-pound monster but he was still a rugby player learning how to play American football. He had a long way to go. He’s obviously come a long way since then because he’s in a legitimate competition with a former first-round pick.
• The Eagles didn’t even go to Mailata last season until they absolutely had to. Remember, when Dillard went down last year, the Eagles put Matt Pryor there, then moved Jason Peters. It took another injury to Peters for Mailata to get in there and he didn’t disappoint. Mailata ended up starting 10 games last year and graded out as the 43rd overall tackle in the NFL. He gave up a total of 7 sacks and 32 total pressures. He wasn’t perfect but he had flashes of absolute brilliance, including his incredible game against the Packers.
• There’s still so much room for growth. The fact that Mailata has even played in the NFL at this point is incredible. And to think that he’s already this good three years after he first began to play football makes you think that the sky is the limit. If he were to continue progressing at this steep of a rate, he has Pro Bowl potential.
• While there were questions about Dillard’s maturity and fit in Philly, Mailata’s mindset since his arrival has been spectacular. If it wasn’t, there’s no way he’d have made it this far. Mailata’s goal — as cliche as it sounds — has been to get better every day. He’s done that.
• As good as Mailata was in 10 games last season, he is still really inexperienced on a grander scale. While Dillard at least played in college, we obviously didn’t see Mailata do that. While his potential is exciting, his inexperience could certainly be viewed as a negative.
• While the Eagles might be hesitant to put Dillard at right tackle after the disaster in 2019, Mailata has played right tackle and more than held his own. In a way, it would be really unfair if his versatility hurt him, but that seems possible. After all, if Dillard wins the starting job, the Eagles could then have Mailata as their backup swing tackle.
• He stayed healthy in 2020 but Mailata has dealt with a couple back injuries during his first few years in the NFL. That’s something that stays in the back of my mind as we talk about a 350-pound guy.
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