Last week, Doug Pederson wouldn’t commit to starting Jason Peters at left tackle whenever he returns from injury … and that was before Jordan Mailata’s second start.
“In the case of Jordan Mailata, as long as he plays well, right now, in the near future, it's his job,” Pederson said last week. “But, at the same time, we understand that when JP is healthy, that's a decision that we are going to have to make at that particular time.”
Against Pittsburgh, Mailata faced the biggest challenge of his young career: Bud Dupree. And for most of the afternoon, he held one of the NFL’s best pass rushers in check.
So through two games, I’ve seen enough.
If Mailata keeps playing like this, the Eagles just can’t take him out of the lineup.
That means that whenever Peters returns from his injury the Eagles need to either play him at right guard or sit him on the bench. There are multiple layers to this, of course. Peters is an all-time great Eagle and benching him wouldn’t be easy. And before the season, the Eagles even paid him more money to slide from guard to tackle. Would they really just put him back at guard? Or on the bench? I don’t know. This franchise has been very loyal to Peters, sometimes to a fault. So maybe it’s expecting too much to think they’ll make the right decision.
But based on what we’ve seen so far, Mailata through two NFL starts is playing at around the same level as Peters when he left the lineup. Mailata will probably continue to get better too, right?
At 38 years old, we know Peters isn’t a part of the Eagles’ long-term future. We don’t know about Mailata yet. He’s still just 23 and if he continues to progress … who knows.
According to ProFootballFocus, Peters and Mailata have played similarly this season. Peters has an overall grade of 64.6 and Mailata has an overall grade of 63.5.
Here’s a look at their pass blocking stats:
Peters: 229 snaps, 3 sacks, 8 hurries, 11 pressures
Mailata: 141 snaps, 1 sack, 6 hurries, 7 pressures
You can make the case that Peters is slightly better right now but even if you do, it’s also fair to say that Peters is a declining player while Mailata — in is third year of playing football at any level! — is ascending. They just happen to be meeting in the middle as they continue their journeys in opposite directions.
In fairness, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Because I’m not saying Mailata is the left tackle of the future. I don’t know that yet. Andre Dillard will return from injury next season and they did draft him to take over that position. But if Mailata plays out the season and performs well, maybe there’s a competition next year.
I guess it doesn’t really make sense for the Eagles to make any decisions about this year in regards to Mailata or Peters until they absolutely have to, because maybe the next game is when Mailata gets exposed.
But based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t see that happening. Instead, I see a 6-foot-8 monster who has come such a long way in three years and has a chance to be really good if he keeps playing and stacking games.
That’s why I wouldn’t stop playing him. Maybe the Eagles’ being in the playoff hunt despite their 1-3-1 record ends up getting in their way. Maybe when Peters is ready to return, the Eagles convince themselves that putting him at left tackle gives them the best chance.
I just like what Mailata brings. I like his attitude, I like his hunger.
“As soon as I wake up, I'm in the game mode,” Mailata said on Tuesday. “I'm thinking about what I'm gonna do in the pass protection and run game. I think about how I'm gonna do that technique, execution, always thinking about the execution. It's sort of easy. It didn't come right away, just flicking the switch.
“I think it comes with being comfortable with the game plan and knowing your responsibility, knowing your job, and then knowing the right technique to execute, so yeah, trust me, the switch, it didn't come easy. It was something I had to work on, and it was something that I grew to become comfortable with, and now it's just a switch, I can click it on and off and yeah, I owe it all to the experience I've been getting.”
Why prevent him from getting more experience?
To be clear, I don’t know if Mailata is the long-term solution at left tackle in Philadelphia. But the Eagles owe it to him and themselves to find out.