We’re just two weeks away from training camp and the Eagles’ offensive line has just been named the top offensive line in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.
The Eagles ranked just ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, who came in at No. 2, followed by the Steelers, Titans and Colts to round out the top five. The other NFC East teams came in 14th (Redskins) and 18th (Giants).
But will the Eagles live up to that?
Here’s what PFF said about the Eagles’ OL:
The Eagles spent their first-round pick on Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard to act as insurance should the ailing Jason Peters fail to play a complete season in 2019. However, Philadelphia has earned top-ten team pass- and run-blocking grades in each of the last three seasons and PFF data suggests that they will accomplish this feat again as they enter the 2019 season with the top-ranked offensive line in the NFL.
PFF was right about the projected starting lineup. It’s the same starting lineup the Eagles used to begin the 2017 season and it’s the same starting lineup the Eagles went back to early in the 2018 season:
Left tackle: Jason Peters
Left guard: Isaac Seumalo
Center: Jason Kelce
Right guard: Brandon Brooks
Right tackle: Lane Johnson
What has made the Eagles’ offensive line so impressive is its consistency with really good players. These guys even have their locker stalls in this order in the Eagles’ locker room. Heck, four of the five guys have been the starters (when healthy) during the entirety of Doug Pederson’s coaching tenure here for three seasons and now into a fourth. The starters at the beginning of the 2016 season were Peters, Allen Barbre, Kelce, Brooks and Johnson. They still even have Super Bowl starter Stefen Wisniewski back as a cheap backup in 2019.
If those five players are on the field in 2019, the Eagles’ offensive line has a chance to be dominant. But, of course, there are questions:
Will Peters be able to stay on the field?
Peters started every game last season, but played just 79 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps. He dealt with a myriad of injuries as he continued to recover from his surgically repaired ACL. The good news is that the further away from the ACL injury he gets, the stronger Peters should get. The bad news is that he’s 37 now and it seems like it’s just a matter of time before he gets hurt again.
Will Brooks be ready for the start of the season?
He’s one of the best guards in the NFL and his recovery seems to be going great, but coming back from an Achilles tear isn’t easy, especially not in the timeframe he has to work with. Kelce, after the season, mentioned that they were a right guard away from beating the Saints; that’s how important Brooks is to this line.
Will Kelce’s laundry list of injuries ever catch up to him?
Kelce played through a ton of injuries last season and even contemplated retirement. He’s one of the best offensive linemen in the league and a potential future Hall of Famer, but he’s 31 now and has eight NFL seasons as an undersized center. He’s played every game in the last four years, but at some point, you wonder if these injuries catch up to him.
If any of the starters miss time, will their backups be adequate?
The obvious replacement for Peters if — or more likely, when — he misses some time, will be Dillard. They drafted him in the first round for a reason. So even though Halapoulivaati Vaitai was the starting left tackle in the Super Bowl, Dillard should be the next man up at left tackle. And Vaitai might be busy anyway. He worked this spring as the first-team right guard in place of Brooks, who is recovering from the torn Achilles, and might be called upon early in the 2019 season if Brooks isn’t ready for the opener. Then there’s still Wiz and Jordan Mailata, who is progressing as a project.
Ultimately, though, it’s hard to argue with the assessment that the Eagles have the best offensive line in football. If Jeff Stoutland’s group isn’t the best, it's mighty close. But it is worth noting this is basically the same OL from the Super Bowl, but older. Still, it should be very good. And while much of the focus will be on Carson Wentz this season, the biggest key to a successful 2019 season might be the guys in charge of keeping him upright. If the starting five can stay on the field — or if the backups can at least keep things afloat — this should be a really good unit.
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