The Eagles brought back Jason Peters on Monday with the plan to make the future Hall of Famer their right guard to replace the injured Brandon Brooks.
We reached out to two former Eagles who have over two decades of combined NFL playing experience to figure out how hard this transition will be. Former Pro Bowl left tackle Tra Thomas spoke to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark via Zoom and NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Barrett Brooks talked about Peters on the latest Eagle Eye podcast.
So just how hard will it be for Peters to move from left tackle to right guard?
“That’s like telling Bryce Harper, because he’s a lefty, go out there and bat right-handed,” Thomas said. “You don’t see Bryce Harper get on the other side of that plate.”
OK, so maybe it won’t be easy.
It’s important to remember that if this decision to sign Peters is as simple as plugging him into the right guard spot, he’s not just changing positions, but he’s also changing sides of the line. That shouldn’t be easy, especially not for a 38-year-old who has played almost all of his career at the same position.
But with that said, Peters came into the NFL as an undrafted tight end, so he’s changed positions before. And Brooks is a little more bullish on Peters’ ability to transition to guard.
“I think it’ll be a really easy transition for him,” Brooks said on Eagle Eye with Reuben Frank. “I’m going to tell you the truth, man. He might be one of the best guards in the league, him moving him it. The only thing he’ll have to do is be more aggressive and be more stout. When did you ever think that you’d have to tell Jason Peters to be more aggressive and be more stout? It’s a natural progression for him.
“I did the same thing. I started tackle my whole entire career until the end of my career and then I made the progression of playing guard. I was the emergency tackle, I was the emergency guard, I even played center. I played all three in one game actually. It’s something that can be done and it’s an easy transition from a tackle to go inside.”
The interesting thing is that Brooks’ choice for the Eagles’ offensive line would be to keep Peters at left tackle and have a line that looks like this: Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Matt Pryor, Lane Johnson. Brooks said he likes that because it would be a more balanced line.
But according to sources I’ve spoken to, the Eagles — at least for now — are planning to play Peters at right guard and want to keep Andre Dillard at left tackle. Peters would also offer an insurance policy at the tackle spots.
As for playing guard, Thomas talked about the difficulty of switching sides of the line. He had to do it late in his career when he was in Jacksonville in 2009. The Jaguars put him at right tackle in an unbalanced line.
“That defensive end put me on my ass so quick,” Thomas said. “Just because I was off-balance. It was just an unfamiliar feeling. The defensive end saw it and he just put his helmet in my chest and that was it.”
Two big hurdles for Peters, according to Thomas, will be his hands and footwork. His punching style will need to flip, as will his feet. If Peters opens too wide, he’ll give a lane to the quarterback.
There’s no question that playing guard is a different animal, but Peters won’t be the first player to transition from tackle to guard late in his career. And it’s a switch he had talked about previously.
“When you move to guard, it’s like fighting in a phone booth,” Brooks said. “Now, all that area is condensed between the center and the tackle. Now, you’re in that phone booth and it’s easier if you’re an aggressive player. And JP, we know he’s an aggressive player, he’s an explosive player.”
Another point Thomas brought up was the unusual offseason. We’re less than two months from the scheduled start of the 2020 season and the preseason has already been chopped in half. In recent years, Peters has taken about half of the team’s first-team practice reps at left tackle to preserve his body. Now, all of a sudden, he needs all the work at right guard that he can get.
It’ll definitely be one of the biggest storylines when we get to training camp in a couple weeks.