A look at why Eagles had to bench Andre Dillard on Sunday

A look at why Eagles had to bench Andre Dillard on Sunday

Last week, Andre Dillard compared switching from the left side of the line to the right to writing an essay with your non-dominant hand. 

After actually playing right tackle on Sunday, Dillard was asked if he still thought that was an apt comparison. 

“It’s probably harder than that, honestly,” he said. 

It certainly looked like it. Dillard lasted just one half against the Seahawks in the Eagles’ 17-9 loss and spent a lot of that time in Carson Wentz’s lap. 

On one hand, I can’t blame the Eagles for trying Dillard at right tackle. When Lane Johnson went down the previous week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai really struggled, so they tried to change it up and go with the more talented player. But I wonder if there were signs during practice the week leading up to the game that this would happen. It probably didn’t help that Brandon Brooks lasted just a handful of plays next to Dillard. 

"I learned that it’s difficult to play other spots on there," Dillard said. "It’s hard to kind of understand how that is if you’ve never played offensive line. I learned a lot. This whole year has been a great learning experience for me. I’m grateful to be in a spot where I can get out there and play and get my feet wet." 

I asked Dillard on Tuesday if, after watching the tape, he understood why he was benched. 

“Sure,“ he said. “Whatever is best for the team, gonna do that. I’m not going to trip over that.” 

When asked about a tweet from former left tackle and 97.5 The Fanatic host Tra Thomas that said Dillard was tipping run or pass, Dillard said he’ll probably talk to Thomas about it. 

Even aside from that, I definitely saw pretty easily why the Eagles made the switch at halftime. Here are a few plays that stood out: 

This was the second-to-last play of the half and if there was any question in Doug Pederson’s mind about making a halftime switch, this likely locked it up. Rasheem Green just put Dillard on roller skates. 

Dillard was in Wentz’s lap far too often on Sunday. His overall strength is something I questioned earlier in the year in his first real game action. It showed up even more on the other side, where he had to think about his footwork and technique. 

Green gave Dillard fits for the entire first half. There were these plays too: 

Wentz delivered a strike for a complete pass on this throw but he did it while making contact with his right tackle. 

At least this time, Dillard recovered a little bit. There was some other pressure, obviously, on this play too. 

Dillard was really lucky this play didn’t count because of a defensive hold in the secondary. Because he was absolutely worked by Ziggy Ansah. It looks like an end-tackle stunt that is supposed to spring the defensive tackle, but the Seahawks didn’t even need it. Ansah just goes right through Dillard. 

Most of what beat Dillard on Sunday was power, but he was beaten by speed on the opening drive. Shaquem Griffin just blows by him here and Dillard barely touches him. 

I did want to point out this play because it looked awful live, but it wasn’t what it appeared. While Dillard’s man gets the sack/forced fumble, Dillard gets tripped by JJ Arcega-Whiteside in motion. This is just horrible football. 

Even though it was a rough performance, it wasn’t all bad for Dillard on Sunday and I still think he’s the left tackle of the future. He was actually OK in the run game, but spent a lot of the first half in Wentz’s lap. It wasn’t hard to figure out why he got benched against the Seahawks. 

“It’s a new day,” Dillard said on Tuesday. “It’s easy to move on from it, learn from it and keep going.” 

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Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Connor Barwin spent a lot of time at the Eagles’ complex the last couple months of the season, and now we know exactly why.

The Eagles on Friday afternoon announced that Barwin, who spent four years playing for the Eagles, has joined the team's front office in the role of special assistant to the general manager.

I'm done playing football, but my football career is not over," Barwin said in an interview on the team’s web site. "I want to stay involved. I want to help this team wherever I can and also learn the other side of the game from the coaches and the personnel side. There's still a lot that I can learn about the on-field part of the game, as well. I love being around the game. I still want to win a Super Bowl, multiple Super Bowls.

According to the Eagles’ web site, Barwin will work with the player personnel staff during the offseason and work on player development during the season, with an emphasis on mentoring players making the challenging transition from college to the NFL.

Barwin, 33, retired after spending last year with the Giants. He began his career with the Texans before signing a six-year, $36 million deal with the Eagles before the 2013 season.

He spent four of those seasons here and made his only Pro Bowl in 2014, when he had a career-high 14 1/2 sacks - the most by any Eagle over the last eight seasons.

Despite playing only four years here, Barwin ranks 15th in franchise history with 31 1/2 sacks, tied with Mike Mamula.

When Chip Kelly and his staff were fired after the 2015 season and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz switched from a 3-4 defense under Bill Davis to a 4-3, Barwin moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. He had five sacks in 2016 and was released after the season.

Barwin spent 2017 with the Rams and 2018 with the Giants. He had 56 1/2 sacks in 10 seasons.

"I got to play for a bunch of really great coaches and look inside how other organizations are run," Barwin said. "That's some insight that I can bring to the Eagles."

Even after he left the Eagles, Barwin always considered Philadelphia home. He has made a huge impact in the community with his Make the World a Better Place foundation, which refurbishes and rebuilds parks and rec centers in Philadelphia.

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Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

We have a new and interesting name in contention to be the Eagles’ next offensive coordinator.

The Eagles on Friday interviewed Southern California offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

This is an interesting approach from the Eagles and Harrell would certainly qualify as an outside-the-box hire. 

Harrell, 34, spent last season at USC but notably has an extensive history with Mike Leach and his Air Raid Offense. Harrell played for Leach at Texas Tech from 2004-08 before going to the CFL and NFL and then coached under Leach at Washington State from 2014-15. 

So Harrell would likely be able to bring some new and potentially exciting concepts to Doug Pederson’s offense. Remember, Jeff Stoutland is the Eagles’ run game coordinator, which meant that Mike Groh was pretty much the pass game coordinator for the last two seasons before he was fired. Since he wouldn’t call plays, that would basically be Harrell’s role if he got the job in Philly. 

At USC, Harrell was hired by head coach Clay Helton when Kliff Kingsbury left after a month to take the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. USC wanted to have an Air Raid style, so they turned to Harrell. 

In his one year as the offensive coordinator at USC, the Trojans improved drastically in major statistical categories on offense from 2018: 

Points per game: 26.1 to 32.5
Yards per game: 382.6 to 454.0 
Passing yards per game: 248.2 to 335.8  

Check out this interesting excerpt from an Aug. 1 story in Sports Illustrated about Harrell’s hire at USC and his thoughts on the offensive system he comes with:

“People hear Air Raid and they think five wide receivers, no tight ends, 60 pass attempts and 50 points a game. To Harrell, the Air Raid is something else. It is working to death a small number of plays, with shorter playcalls, perfecting those plays and out-executing — not out-scheming — the opponent. Option-based coaches, like former Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, operate under similar mentalities, but with a different focus: rushing the football. Leach does it through the air. “You can’t do everything. I think a lot of people try to take a little bit of everything offensively,” Harrell says. “If you do that, you don’t have much of an identity. You’re just O.K. at everything and not really good at something.”

At times over the last few seasons, the Eagles have found success after simplifying. They’ve also found success using an up-tempo pace to get Carson Wentz into a rhythm. These seem like concepts that would mesh with Harrell’s philosophy. 

And we also know that Pederson values coaches who, like himself, were once players. After he left Texas Tech, Harrell played one season (but was injured) for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then was a backup quarterback in Green Bay for a few seasons and with the New York Jets for a season in 2013. Harrell’s only NFL game action came in 2012 as a member of the Packers. He played in four games and threw just four career passes. 

Since then, though, he’s been a quick riser in the coaching world. And he has some fresh ideas that might help an Eagles offense that has been far too stagnant at times over the last couple seasons. 

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