If not for the spotlight that comes with being the Eagles’ first-round pick, you would’ve never known Andre Dillard was on the field against the Titans on Thursday night.
That would be high praise for any offensive lineman, let alone one making his NFL debut.
It was only 33 snaps facing backups and players battling for roster spots, but Dillard’s performance in the Eagles’ preseason opener provided a glimpse into why some draft experts had him pegged as a top-10 talent in this year’s draft.
“I think I played pretty good, pretty decent for my first time out there,” said Dillard postgame. “Couple things I wish I did a little better, but that happens.”
Dillard seemed rock solid at left tackle from upstairs, thwarting the Titans pass rush at every turn and getting after defenders in the run game.
Protection is supposed to be Dillard’s strong suit coming from pass-happy Washington State, where he was a four-year starter surrendering only one sack in 677 pass attempts as a senior. Inexperience run blocking was a larger concern out of school, perhaps explaining how he fell to the Eagles at No. 22 in the first place.
Yet, Dillard looked natural in the ground attack, too, even if the offense ran the ball to little success — Eagles backs carried 11 times for just 21 yards in the first half with the rookie in the lineup.
“Things are just starting to come together for me,” said Dillard. “I’m not nearly where I want to be, not anywhere close, but each day I try to stack the days.”
After the game, Dillard was one of a select handful of Eagles players who earned praise from coach Doug Pederson.
While Dillard is with the second-team offense now and expected to serve as a backup this season, recent history suggests the 23-year-old will have a role to play in 2019.
The questions surrounding Jason Peters are well documented. The nine-time Pro Bowler is 37 and has missed time with health issues three of the last four seasons.
One half of one preseason game is far from a guarantee Dillard would be up to the task should Peters become unavailable — but it did appear he wouldn’t be completely in over his head, either.
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