It was easy to see the Andre Dillard selection as a blow to Jordan Mailata.
Here’s Mailata, just coming off his rookie season, thinking he had a chance to move past Halapoulivaati Vaitai and bec0me the Eagles’ No. 3 tackle behind Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.
Next thing you know, they draft an offensive tackle in the first round.
Just like that, conventional wisdom said Mailata — the massive former rugby player who became such an intriguing prospect last year — was no longer the heir apparent at left tackle.
Most people would take it as a demotion. And it would be understandable.
The good-natured Aussie said he was anything but disappointed when the Eagles picked Dillard out of Washington State with the 22nd pick last month.
“Why would I be?”
Well, maybe it will slow down your route to the field?
“I don’t think it slows down anything,” he said. “I think every year they’re going to choose the best people to draft, and ‘Dre just happened to be one of the best tackles in the draft and obviously you want that. You want that on your team. I want that on my team. I don’t believe it hinders my progression or where they have me on the depth chart. I think it’s just a plus for us that we got ‘Dre, and for me it’s going to make me work harder. He’s a great guy. At the end of the day, it doesn’t hinder my progression.”
One of the more interesting developments of the first week of OTAs was the way the offensive tackle position appears to have evolved.
Mailata may be behind Peters, Johnson and Dillard, but he’s clearly ahead of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who in the span of 15 months has gone from starting left tackle in a Super Bowl triumph to — at least at practice on Tuesday — a backup guard.
Big V, who played better and better down the stretch in 2017, struggled last year and only took reps at guard during the one open practice so far.
That could obviously change. It’s only May. But it certainly looks right now that Mailata is in the plans at tackle and Vaitai isn’t.
Another interesting development is that Dillard is only taking reps at left tackle, at least for now, and Mailata is working at both left and right tackle.
So if Peters gets hurt — and that’s been a recurring theme recently — Dillard goes in. But at least for now, Mailata is the No. 2 right tackle. Would the Eagles really go with the untested Mailata, who has never played a meaningful snap of organized football on any level in his life, ahead of Dillard if Johnson got hurt?
Impossible to say at this point.
The one thing we do know is that Mailata is dramatically ahead of where he was last year.
Last year, yeah, it was crazy,” he said. “It’s day and night for me from I walked in last year till now. Everything. Understanding the playbook, understanding the technique — everything. I always think about it. I like to reflect and tell myself how far I’ve come. It’s like night and day. Put the old footage on. Oh God. I was crazy the whole time. I was watching it today. Gives me a chance to reflect how far I’ve come.
Mailata said he’s almost fully healed from the back injury that landed him on Injured Reserve in December.
Once the pads go on in August, we’ll see how far Mailata really has come and everybody’s role will crystallize.
Mailata is only 21. He’s still got a long way to go, but even with Peters, Johnson and Dillard in the mix, he’s convinced he fits into the Eagles’ long-term plans.
And when you look over and see Big V take reps at guard, you understand why.
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