The Eagles took a major hit this week when starting left tackle Andre Dillard was lost for the season with a biceps tear, but they’ll be OK.
… As long as everyone else stays healthy.
No matter how the Eagles choose to format their starting O-line in Week 1, Matt Pryor will go from backup to starter and it will leave the Birds incredibly short on experienced depth once that happens. As Reuben Frank pointed out a couple days ago, the seven other offensive linemen on the roster have combined for three career offensive snaps.
Does that lack of experience concern Doug Pederson?
“I mean, listen, I didn't have a whole lot of experience, either, becoming a head coach for the first time,” Pederson said on Saturday morning. “You get it by doing it.
“We've had situations here, I go back to Big V. Big V his first game was at Washington as a young player, and sometimes you learn and you gain valuable experience that way.
“Obviously, it's unfortunate with Andre and his injury, but we can, again, bring somebody in here to help. If it's a veteran player, we'll look that way, too, but these guys have – Matt Pryor has played games. Don't mistake that. He's played games. He's started for us and he's played in some big situations, and so we're going to lean on that. At some point we've got to trust our players, right, and as coaches we trust our guys.
“It's our job to coach them up and get them prepared, to help them, not only in practice but in game situations, and that's what we're going to do.”
It’s interesting that Pederson mentioned the possibility of bringing in a veteran from the outside. That is certainly on the table but the season begins in just over two weeks.
Bringing up Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s first game in Washington might not be the best idea either. That’s when Ryan Kerrigan turned Big V into a turnstile. Of course, Doug’s right, Vaitai did get better from there.
And he also mentioned Pryor’s experience, which is true. Pryor was the top backup; they viewed him as a Vaitai type, who can play guard and tackle. But we can now assume Pryor is a starter. So the backups are Nate Herbig, Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, Prince Tega Wanogho, Sua Opeta, Luke Juriga and Julian Good-Jones. Only Herbig has played in a real NFL game.
Pederson on Saturday said Peters “is obviously in the conversation” to play left tackle. But that’s a no-brainer. C’mon, why wouldn’t the Eagles simply put Peters back at left tackle, the position that he dominated for over a decade and played at a Hall of Fame level?
In reality, barring a move, the most likely opening day offensive line is this:
LT: Jason Peters
LG: Isaac Seumalo
C: Jason Kelce
RG: Matt Pryor
RT: Lane Johnson
On Saturday morning, during the team install portion of practice, Peters was still at right guard. (Johnson is still dealing with an upper body injury and has missed a week of practices; Pederson on Saturday said Johnson is still day-to-day.)
Obviously, the Eagles desperately need Johnson to return. But the line they showed on Saturday just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s hard to imagine them going into the season without Peters at left tackle.
Even Pederson on Saturday admitted that since they know Peters can play left tackle, the Eagles can use these next few practices to get guys reps at other positions. Those reps will come in handy if/when there are injuries to the starters during the season. It’s also important to note that Saturday and Sunday are the final two days practices are open to reporters.
“Listen, Jason Peters has played left tackle his whole career and he's done an outstanding job,” Pederson said. “He'll obviously go down as one of the top left tackles in this game. So it does give us a little bit of flexibility, a little bit of time to look at these young players, to look at Jordan Mailata, to look at Matt Pryor over there and Jack Driscoll and some of the guys that are playing tackle for us.
“I’m encouraged by that. We're going to — it'll be great to go up against our starters on defense, in practice this week, and continue to evaluate.”
In a way, Pederson is right. The only way for a young player to gain experience is to play. But the idea of that happening as the Eagles are trying to protect their franchise quarterback and make a playoff run is a little scary.