Lane Johnson and Jason Peters played all 75 of the Eagles’ offensive snaps in their Week 1 win over Washington, so there wasn’t much meat left on the bone for Andre Dillard.
And if Peters and Johnson are able to stay healthy this year, that means the Eagles’ first-round pick won’t play much. So the Eagles are getting creative.
On Sunday, Dillard still played four offensive snaps as an in-line tight end, something we’ll probably see more and more as the season progresses.
It’s definitely different than anything I’ve ever done in football before because I’ve never played tight end,” Dillard said after the game. “I’ve always been a tackle. It was fun to experience something new along with experiencing my first NFL touchdown and win all at the same time. It was just all new stuff for me today.
Dillard played just four offensive snaps. The first came on the Eagles’ second offensive play and he didn’t get back on the field on offense until the fourth quarter. Aside from playing a new position, three of Dillard’s four snaps on Sunday came from the right side of the line after spending all spring and summer on the left.
The Eagles didn’t even use Dillard at tight end all training camp. He had just one week to prepare for his new role. “A week’s worth of preparation can work wonders,” Dillard said.
So how did it go?
“I thought he did a nice job,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “He probably over sat on the one protection a little bit too wide on (Redskins LB Ryan) Kerrigan on the second play of the game. I thought he, for the most part, played well. Kind of a new position for him. We worked him there all week. Tried to get him comfortable in that spot. And really, they are blocking the same guys, those outside linebackers or D-end type guys. So yeah, he is a little bit wider but the technique is still the same. It's something we’ll continue to grow with him.”
You can see that Dillard does get a little too wide on his first snap. But his first NFL snap is also coming at a new position against Kerrigan, who has 84 1/2 sacks in his career. That’s a tough ask.
Dillard’s next snap came on the first play of the fourth quarter on the backward pass to Alshon Jeffery that counted as a rushing touchdown.
On this one, Dillard was actually off the line (another new thing) and was in position as the play developed. He just needs to find a hat to block.
Dillard was also on the field for the ensuing 2-point conversion, but the play was a quick one to the other side, so he didn’t have much of a role.
I thought the rookie’s best play of the day came on the tail end of that 19-play drive in the fourth quarter. It was 2nd-and-17 and Carson Wentz passed it right to Jordan Howard for a gain of 6. Dillard lined up on the left side next to Peters for this one.
You can see Dillard circled here. He shuts down fellow first-round pick Montez Sweat by himself and eventually gets a little help from Zach Ertz who stayed in on the play.
While he got just four snaps in the opener, you can expect this role to increase as the season goes on. The Eagles like using an extra tackle like this and have done it in the past with Halapoulivaati Vaitai and even Isaac Seumalo before he became the starting left guard.
The biggest difference with this new position, Dillard said, is that he’s a lot farther out. He has to work out how to gauge where he is on his angles and it can be a little harder to hear the quarterback. He also has to report as eligible to the official, something that must have been stressed ad nauseam by the coaching staff because he said it’s already “ingrained in my head.”
Eventually, Dillard is expected to be the starting left tackle for the Eagles. But in the meantime, as long as the guys in front of him are healthy, this is his best shot to get some game reps under his belt.
“Yeah, however I can,” Dillard said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m just really glad I got to get my feet wet.”
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