As Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata battle it out this summer for the right to be named the Eagles’ starting left tackle, there’s a ton at stake and everyone knows it.
Leave it to Lane Johnson to keep the mood light.
“We joke around with them,” Johnson said. “We’ll say, ‘Hey, who’s going to reign supreme?’ The O-line room is pretty vicious. We’re pretty mean to each other. But in a way, keep them light-hearted, keep them laughing and when it’s time to go to work and handle business, handle business.”
As much as coaches, reporters and fans will be watching the biggest competition of the summer, so too will the guys who share a meeting room every day with Dillard and Mailata.
Yes, Johnson, Jason Kelce and the rest of the Eagles’ offensive linemen are just as curious and intrigued about this battle as you are.
“These are two guys who have a great opportunity to seize a position, a starting position, to potentially change their lives,” Kelce said. “Right now, they’re in the NFL and that’s great. You end up starting left tackle, sign big money contracts, realize your dream of playing and starting in the NFL. Those are the storylines that you really love watching in training camp.”
Think about it. There really is a ton at stake.
On one side, Dillard has the chance to show the NFL world that the Eagles were justified in taking him (and trading up to do so) in the first round of the 2019 draft. Dillard had a lost season in 2020 after tearing his biceps in the summer, but he was going to be the starter last year. And now that job is in question.
And the only reason that job is in question is because the 6-foot-8 former seventh-round draft pick from Australia finally got a chance to play last season and didn’t disappoint. Mailata started 10 games and while he wasn’t perfect, he was good enough to think that maybe he’s actually the future left tackle of the Eagles, especially because of how much more growth potential he has.
Johnson broke down each of them as succinctly as possible: “Jordan Mailata is a monster, Andre Dillard is a super freak athlete.”
And that’s part of what makes this competition so much fun. Because you can really see the potential in both guys. The Eagles drafted Dillard to be their cornerstone left tackle, but if Mailata becomes that guy, then so be it. The organization just wants to tab the right guy.
Because that’s the thing. It doesn’t really feel like this is a battle for just this year. It really seems like the player who wins this competition is going to be the starter at left tackle for the next however many years. The Eagles have had great stability at that position over the last few decades as they went from Tra Thomas to Jason Peters. The plan was for the next guy to be Dillard, but Mailata has definitely entered the discussion.
In the first two days of this training camp, it's looking like a true competition. Dillard got the first crack at working with the first team on Day 1 and then Mailata was primarily with the first team on Day 2. There have been some ups and downs for both but it’s far too early to draw any conclusions.
Back in the spring, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said what will determine the winner, at least to him, is how each of these guys plays in unison with the rest of the offensive line. Because left guard Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) isn’t practicing — Nate Herbig is filling in — it certainly throws a wrench into the competition.
But there’s still a long way to go. Heck, they haven’t even put full pads on yet.
“I can’t wait to watch both of those guys go out there and battle it out,” Kelce said.
He’s not alone.
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