jeff stoutland

Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

A couple years ago, when the Eagles drafted Jordan Mailata in the 7th round of the NFL draft, I asked him a question and he gave an answer that has followed him. 

How much did you know about American football just a few months before the Eagles drafted you? 

“Mate, as little as peanuts.” 

By the end of his first training camp, Mailata said he had reached a quarter of a bag of peanuts. And it’s clear he has made progress. But now, entering Year 3 in the NFL, it’s time to start asking if Mailata has finally filled that bag. 

In other words, is this the year Mailata goes from a project to a real NFL player? 

“Look, I’m always as honest as I can be. I don’t want to lead you down a garden path, OK,” offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said last week on a Zoom call with reporters. “So I always try to tell you that absolute truth; you guys know that. … I can’t answer that question right now.” 

Hopefully, we get our answer soon enough. 

Stoutland said the reason he couldn’t answer that question is because he needs to see Mailata do it on the field. That might have hit a snag last week, when Mailata was one of three Eagles placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he either tested positive for COVID-19 or was exposed to somebody who did. Lane Johnson said publicly that he tested positive. 

So, obviously, everyone is hoping Mailata is healthy; that’s more important. But he also can’t afford to miss any grass time, especially in a training camp that won’t have preseason games. With such limited game experience in his life, those preseason games were more important for Mailata than any other player on the roster. And now he’ll have only training camp practices and that will only happen once he’s off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. 

The good news is that Stoutland is very optimistic. 

“I can say this: In the meetings that we have, the virtual meetings, he was a completely different guy in the meetings,” Stoutland said. “And, you’re going to say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ His confidence level. Because we require these guys to know a lot and to be able to convert blocking schemes and calls. Completely, completely different in the meeting. 

“Now, will that carry over to the field? Every morning when I come here I pray that’s what will happen. Do I think that will happen? Absolutely. But I can’t guarantee that. We’re going to find out, though. That’s what this is all about. And if it does carry over then we got action. We’re going to be in good shape.”

This offseason, Halapoulivaati Vaitai left in free agency and got a big contract with the Detroit Lions, which means the Eagles’ depth at offensive tackle took a big hit. But then they drafted two players with tackle experience and brought back Jason Peters to play guard and also be insurance at tackle. 

So the Eagles have options if Mailata doesn’t work out or if he isn’t ready. But in Year 3, it’s probably time to get past the project phase. 

Mailata is still just 23 but in his first two NFL seasons he still hasn’t played in a single regular-season game. And he has ended both years on Injured Reserve with back injuries. 

But all the traits the Eagles saw in Mailata when they drafted for former rugby player to play offensive tackle are still there. 

Mailata is 6-foot-8, 346 pounds, incredibly strong, athletic and willing to learn. And in last year’s preseason, he looked good. We saw progress. Really, we’ve seen progress every time Mailata steps foot on a football field. 

But is he ready to be an NFL player and not just the guy trying to become an NFL player? 

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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Jeff Stoutland explains why Jason Peters will succeed at right guard in 2020

Jeff Stoutland explains why Jason Peters will succeed at right guard in 2020

A few years ago, Jeff Stoutland wandered out to the NovaCare Complex practice fields for a walkthrough and found all-pro left tackle Jason Peters ... playing center?"

"He was snapping out there in a walk-through session," Stoutland recalled. "I said, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I could play center, I could play center one day. I'm going to come back as a long snapper.' I don't think he was joking, either."

The point being that Jason Peters loves a challenge. 

He thinks he can do anything, and throughout his career he's proven that he can.

Which is why Stoutland, one of the NFL's most highly respected offensive line coaches, has no doubt that after one year as a practice squad tight end and 15 years as an elite left tackle, Peters can be a heck of a right guard for the Eagles.

Even though he's never played a snap at guard.

"I really believe that J.P., he embraces these things, man," Stoutland said in a Zoom call Friday. "He likes a new challenge. ... In his mind, it's something that's going to be new, it's something that will be challenging, but I absolutely think he has the critical factors to be very productive at the position."

Stoutland spoke Friday for the first time since the Eagles re-signed Peters to replace injured Brandon Brooks.

This will be Peters' 12th year with the Eagle. Only five players in franchise history have played more – Chuck Bednarik, Brian Dawkins, Harold Carmichael, Bucko Kilroy and Vic Sears.

"I believe everybody in the O-line meeting room and probably a lot of other players around here ... they look at Jason Peters like, 'This guy can do anything,'" Stoutland said. "I think that this is going to be great for Jason Peters. It's just another challenge for him."

Stoutland and Peters have been together since 2013, Chip Kelly's first year here. Nobody knows J.P. better than Stout.

"He knows me, he knows how I coach, he knows our terminology," Stoutland said. "You have to know what the guard's doing on every play. You played next to him, you were a tackle."

Brooks, a Pro Bowler after the last three seasons, is out for the season after tearing his left Achilles while working out on the grass fields outside the NovaCare Complex in June.

The Eagles were lucky Peters was still available when Brooks got hurt two months into free agency, and they locked him up to a one-year deal.

"Look, Brandon Brooks is the best player at that position in the entire league, in my opinion, and it's a tremendous loss for us, that’s the truth, we all know that," Stoutland said. 

"But we have to have some answers now, so we thought about this thoroughly -- coach Pederson and Howie (Roseman) and Mr. (Jeff) Lurie -- and we talked through this and I absolutely totally believe in Jason Peters doing this assignment.

"I think he brings a lot of value to the organization, to our offense. I think this is absolutely the best move."

 

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With new structure, entire Eagles offense is on Doug Pederson’s shoulders

With new structure, entire Eagles offense is on Doug Pederson’s shoulders

There will be no excuses for Doug Pederson in 2020. No fall guy either.

It’s not that the Eagles’ offense wasn’t on him before — it was — but with the new offensive coaching staff structure, which breaks the traditional mold, there will be little room for doubt.

The entire offense is on Doug’s shoulders now.

We learned on Wednesday that the Eagles are promoting Press Taylor and giving him the added title of passing game coordinator. This means the Eagles will have a passing game coordinator and a run game coordinator in OL coach Jeff Stoutland. It also means that Pederson is still the play-caller, the head coach and basically the czar of offense, which would be a much cooler title.

There will be input from Stoutland and more from Taylor. And, sure, it sounds like there will be input from two new coaches with fresh ideas — Jeff Lurie loves his collaborative processes — but with all his power, Pederson should get almost all the praise or criticism for the offense’s performance in the upcoming season.

For the last few years, it always seemed like the Eagles’ offensive coordinator — first Frank Reich and then Mike Groh — got too much credit or too much flak for the performance of the offense. And when things soured offensively in 2019, it was easy to point a finger at Groh and fire him, as the Eagles’ did a month ago. But the fact is, no one really knows how much of the offense’s struggles (or successes later in the season) were because of Groh. Similarly, we don’t know how much of the offense’s success in 2017 was because of Reich. Sure, it was easy to see the difference and conclude that there was causation: the offense was good when Reich was here, Reich must be a good OC; the offense wasn’t as good when Groh was here, Groh must be the problem.

But we don’t know.

What we do know is that throughout his four years as head coach, Pederson has always been the top offensive coach on staff. He has always been the play-caller and decision-maker.

So entering 2020 without an official offensive coordinator simply busts down the facade. This offense is — and always has been — Pederson’s unit.

Would the Eagles have benefited from adding a fresh voice to take over for Groh as the offensive coordinator? There’s certainly a case to be made and it seemed like they were heading in that direction. But even if that happened, it would have still been on Pederson to value that person’s input and actually implement their ideas.

It’s not like Pederson won’t get input from the coaches who will be on his staff in 2020 either. He still has Stoutland, who is one of the most highly regarded coaches on his staff. He still has Duce Staley. He still has Taylor, who will now have an expanded role as a 32-year-old coach who is viewed around the league as an up-and-comer.

And now we’ve learned that Pederson will have two new voices in Rich Scangarello and Andrew Breiner, who will both reportedly be added to the staff in still-undefined roles. Scangarello is a former NFL OC in Denver and worked under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Breiner has worked under Joe Moorhead and he’s been a college head coach.

So both of those guys will theoretically be the ones bringing some fresh ideas to an offense that could probably use some fresh ideas.

But it’s up to Pederson to listen to them. It’s up to Pederson to listen to Taylor and Stout. It’s up to Pederson to implement those new ideas, blend them with what we know works, get the most out of Carson Wentz, call the plays on game day and be the innovative and creative offensive mind we’ve seen him be in the past.

It’s all on Doug. At least we all understand that now.

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