Jordan Mailata last year had a colorful way to explain what it was like to switch from left tackle to right tackle.
The 6-8, 346-pound offensive lineman eloquently compared the switch to wiping your backside with the opposite hand.
“It doesn’t have to be clean,” Mailata said last year. “You just have to get the job done.”
A year later, Mailata still thinks that’s an apt comparison. The only difference is that he has gotten a bunch more practice on the right side of the line as the Eagles have been training him as a swing tackle. And all that practice might pay off on Sunday night against the Cowboys.
Mailata, 23, apparently takes coaching off the field as well as he does on it because on Thursday when asked where he expects to play on Sunday night, he wasn’t giving up anything. The ever-loquacious Mailata served up a no comment on that question.
“I don’t really know yet. Nothing’s set in stone,” he said. “It’s part of the job that whatever the team needs, you just need to be prepared for. We’ve been doing that at practice, doing left and right, but as of nothing’s set in stone.”
OK, fair enough. Competitive advantage and all that.
But the worst-kept secret at the NovaCare Complex this week is that Jason Peters (foot) is expected to make his return off IR and if Lane Johnson can’t play through ankle and knee injuries, guess who’s at right tackle?
Yup, there’s a chance Mailata will make his first-career start at right tackle on Sunday night after starting the last four games at left tackle.
“The right side is definitely getting there now, just like I said, the more reps that I can get at right tackle, the more comfortable I feel,” Mailata said on Thursday. “It’s just all about detailing out my technique.”
The last four starts weren’t perfect — Mailata had plenty of ups and downs — but they were also the first four starts of his career in meaningful games at any level. The fact that Mailata held his own is impressive in its own right.
He played well enough that many fans would prefer to see him stay at left tackle despite the return of Peters, who is a likely future Hall of Famer. Because of Johnson’s injury status (and Jack Driscoll’s injury status) the Eagles have a convenient built-in excuse this week for playing Peters at left tackle. They need Mailata to get ready to play on the other side.
But this might also mean that once Johnson or Driscoll return, then it’s back to the bench for Mailata, which would be disappointing for fans who wanted to watch him continue to develop in the second half of the season.
“I think I was doing my job. I was doing the best I can,” Mailata said. “Was it perfect? Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. But, you know, as for keeping the job, again, I can only control what I can control and I can only put out for the universe what I give, so it’s not up to me.”
Perhaps the Eagles’ decision was made a little easier last week, when Mailata had what was clearly the worst of his four starts. Against the Giants, Mailata said the short week bothered him and his legs were gassed. It was his first time going through a short turnaround like that and it showed.
But Mailata definitely agrees that the Giants game was his worst. In fact, when asked to rank his individual starting performances, he quickly named the Giants game as his worst and then figured out the rest. Eventually, he landed on this order with refreshing honesty:
At this point in his career, Mailata isn’t going to be picky. In a few years, he has gone from a seventh-round pick who barely knew anything about football to starting multiple NFL games.
If they ask him to play left tackle? Fine.
If they ask him to play right tackle? Fine.
“Nah, no frustration at all,” Mailata said. “I always said, it’s team first. If they go to right tackle, I’m like, ‘Cool. ’Sup, Matt Pryor? What’s going on, man? I’m back.’ And if I go back to left, I’m like ‘I’m back, Herbie.’ So that’s pretty much it. I’m comfortable (on) both sides, obviously more comfortable on the left, but any time I can get a rep in the ones, I’m cheering. I’m all for it any time I can get a rep with the ones.”