Before the Eagles broke for the bye week, Doug Pederson confirmed that Jason Peters would take back his left tackle position from rookie Andre Dillard as soon as he was healthy enough to return from a knee injury.
That wasn’t much of a surprise. Pederson is a loyal guy and Peters is a future Hall of Famer and is perhaps the most respected player in the Eagles’ locker room.
While Pederson’s answer a week before wasn’t surprising, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland on Monday made it clear the Eagles didn’t even contemplate a change at left tackle.
Stoutland took about 50 seconds to answer the question. His volume and intensity level rose as he did:
I think that if you walked into our meeting room right now … I’m not in the room, the players are in the room. You say, ‘hey’ … I mean, Jason Peters is unbelievable. Since I’ve been here, since 2013, all I’ve ever heard, ‘ahh, he’s too old, he can’t do it, he’s not going to make it’ and he’s proved everybody wrong, every single year, every single year.
This is an unbelievable … you might never see another Jason Peters again! I’m being honest with you now. This man is an absolute incredible, incredible player, who still shows … before he got hurt, OK, and he actually played a little bit while he was hurt, playing at an extremely high level. Now that he got that thing (the knee injury) taken care of, I expect him to be back playing at even a better level. And so I’m excited about that. When is that time? I don’t know. I can’t tell you that.”
But the reason the question was even asked of Pederson on Nov. 4 was because Dillard, the first-round pick, has been playing better in each of his three starts. And Peters, 37, hasn’t been able to stay on the field for complete games.
In his three starts, Dillard has played every snap. In six starts this season, Peters has done that just twice. And this comes after he struggled to play complete games last year too.
A healthy Peters is probably still the Eagles’ best option, but reliability is an obvious concern.
So we’re probably looking at a scenario very soon — perhaps even this week — were Peters is the starter at left tackle and Dillard will have to be on the sideline ready to enter the game at a moment’s notice. The good news here is that even before Peters’ knee injury, Dillard was already splitting first-team reps. The Eagles for the last few years have managed Peters during the week to limit his wear and tear.
And now, after three consecutive starts, Dillard and left guard Isaac Seumalo have been able to build an in-game rapport that they should be able to recall when Dillard has to inevitably step in at a moment’s notice again this season.
At some point, eventually, Dillard is expected to take over the left tackle position permanently. The Eagles are adamant that time hasn’t yet arrived.
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