Is Jordan Mailata the Eagles’ long-term answer at the left tackle position?
I don’t know.
But the Eagles definitely owe it to themselves to find out, which is exactly what they’re going to do with the last six games of the 2020 season.
The Eagles have finally moved Jason Peters to right guard, which means Mailata will be back at the left tackle position starting on Monday night against the Seahawks, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.
This was a move that absolutely needed to be made and one that was long overdue. Because even if Peters was a slightly better player there was no reason to play a 38-year-old over a promising 23-year-old in a season that is already circling the drain. And then last week, Peters proved that he isn’t the best option for the post he’s held for over a decade. After Peters’ horrendous performance against the Browns, the Eagles finally made the switch.
Honestly, it took three games too long.
Because when Mailata started four games at left tackle in place of Peters earlier this season, when Peters was on Injured Reserve, we saw some great signs. We saw glimpses of a 6-foot-8, 346-pound behemoth who might have a real future as a starter at left tackle in Philadelphia.
Just two games into Mailata’s four-game stretch at left tackle, I had already made up my mind that Mailata needed to start the rest of the season at left tackle. But the Eagles are loyal — this year to a fault — and inserted Peters back into the lineup at left tackle against the Cowboys before the bye week.
But let’s forget all the excuses. There’s no reason anymore for Peters to block that left tackle spot from Mailata and the Eagles finally realized that.
While Mailata played fairly well and showed glimpses earlier this season, that’s not to say he was perfect. He was far from it. Mailata ranks as ProFootballFocus’s 62nd-best NFL tackle and he has given up five sacks this season. But you have to remember that he’s not just new to the NFL; he’s new to football. This is a guy who was a rugby player not long before the 2018 draft, when the Eagles used a seventh-round pick on him.
That’s why when Doug Pederson compared Mailata to Nelson Agholor, saying that benching Mailata could help him in the long-term, it made no sense. Because Agholor had been playing football for years and played at a major college program. The only way for Mailata to get better is to play. And now he’ll finally have a chance to do that the rest of this season.
If Mailata plays well in these last six games, there’s a chance he could end up being the Eagles’ long-term solution at left tackle. At the very least, he could give himself the opportunity to compete for that job next summer.
The Eagles this season were prepared to go into the year with Andre Dillard as their starter at left tackle. After all, they traded up in the 2019 draft to take Dillard with the 22nd pick. And this offseason, Dillard bulked up in an attempt to add some strength to his God-given athleticism. It seemed many were bullish on him after he packed on some pounds.
There also seems to be at least some doubt that he’s really going to take over that position and become a great player. He was OK in 2019 when he got the chance but he didn’t do anything to solidify that job; he was named the starter this season because the Eagles drafted him to eventually be that starter. In 2021, Dillard will already be in the third year of his rookie contract and Peters will be in a contract year.
Maybe Dillard, 25, will return from his torn biceps next season and end up being the Eagles’ left tackle. Maybe he’ll be the guy to hold down that position for the next decade.
But with a strong finish to the 2020 season, Mailata can at least make things interesting.
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