Matt Pryor

Lane Johnson thinks Matt Pryor can ‘go to the next level’ with experience

Lane Johnson thinks Matt Pryor can ‘go to the next level’ with experience

Last Monday, Lane Johnson called Brandon Brooks to ask his buddy if he wanted some water ice and that was when Brooks told him he tore his Achilles. 

“I thought he was joking,” Johnson said to Fran Duffy on the Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast.

He wasn’t. 

Brooks will miss the entire 2020 season, leaving Lane Johnson with a new right guard next to him whenever the season begins. For now, the frontrunner appears to be third-year offensive lineman Matt Pryor. 

This offseason, Pryor spent some time working out with Johnson. 

He’s definitely taking it a lot more seriously,” Johnson said. “I think [Pryor] knows his role; he could be a starter. When he got to play last year, he did very well in games. Really, when you look at him, he’s 6-8. I always joke with him, call him Treebeard from Lord of the Rings, the walking trees, that’s just how big this guy is, that’s how much room he takes up, how massive he is. 

“I think once he gets a few games under his belt, gets some confidence going, then he’ll go to the next level.

Pryor (6-7, 332) was a sixth-round pick out of TCU back in 2018. During his two years with the Eagles, he has become more of a guard than a tackle despite his height. There’s obviously some potential there, but Pryor hasn’t played much at all in the NFL. 

While Pryor made his first NFL start last January in the playoffs against the Seahawks because of Brooks’ shoulder injury, Lane Johnson missed that game too with an injury of his own. So if Pryor is the Eagles’ choice to play right guard this year, training camp will be the first time we see a RG-RT combo of Pryor and Johnson. 

Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowler, likes the potential he sees in Pryor. 

“He’s so big and when he lands his hands, he’s got very strong hands, he can do a lot of damage,” Johnson said. “As far as the skillset, it’s there. It’s just getting experience and staying consistent, just like everything else.”

No matter who plays right guard in 2020 — if it’s Matt Pryor, Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll or someone who isn’t on the roster — the Eagles are still going to miss Brooks, who was arguably the best offensive lineman in the NFL last season. 

But the good news for the right guard is that he’ll be playing between Jason Kelce and Johnson, who are widely considered to be the best center and right tackle in the NFL. 

Johnson is ready to play with whoever in 2020, but he’s also ready for Brooks to return in 2021. 

“He’s just a big bear, man,” Johnson said. “You’re not going to hurt him. You might get him down, but he’s coming back. I think he’ll make a full recovery and come back and be even better.”

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Brandon Brooks says Andre Dillard is up to 335 pounds

Brandon Brooks says Andre Dillard is up to 335 pounds

When we last saw Andre Dillard in January, the Eagles’ offensive lineman had just finished his rookie season and vowed to hit the weight room in his first NFL offseason in anticipation of becoming a starter. 

Apparently, he hit the weight room hard. 

Brandon Brooks, a day after his Achilles surgery, appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Quick Slants on Friday and said Dillard now weighs 335 pounds!

None of that college body, that noodle body, none of that,” Brooks said. “He’s been hitting the weights, man, getting strong. I tried to push him every day. You know how it is playing O-line, there’s no excuses, you gotta get it done.

For reference, Dillard is listed at 315 pounds and said he was 320 at the end of last season. He spent most of his rookie year at 320 pounds but felt like he changed the composition of his body. In the five months since the end of the season, Dillard has been working on his body even more. 

That’s a good sign for the Eagles, who will be relying on Dillard to take over Jason Peters’ vacated left tackle spot. Peters is still available on the free agent market but the Eagles are committed to going forward with Dillard, their first-round pick from 2019. Earlier this offseason, Jason Kelce said Dillard had all the athleticism necessary to be a good tackle but just needed to get stronger. It sounds like Dillard has. 

“I’m sure he has a bar he wants to reach but I want it even higher,” Brooks said. “Every time I see him, I’m going to push him to make sure. He may never be JP, but s— he’ll be close. I can tell you that as long as we keep progressing the way he’s going. He’s really hitting it hard.”

Brooks said the offensive line got together this offseason and the guys have been helping Dillard and some of the younger players focus on the mental aspect of NFL football. Once the physical stuff is down, the mental stuff is what you have to stay after, Brooks said. He’s been pushing his younger teammate. 

“As a matter of fact,” Brooks said, “the day I tore my Achilles, I was pushing him because, s— I’m about to be 31, I’m beating him in sprints and it’s like, ‘Nah, Dre, you’re 22 years old, you should be smoking me every time.’” 

With the injury to Brooks this week, the Eagles will likely be relying on two young players on their offensive line. While Dillard is expected to play left tackle, third-year player Matt Pryor is the front-runner to take over for Brooks at right guard. 

Pryor started the playoff game against the Seahawks for Brooks in January. It would be unfair to expect Pryor to play at the Pro Bowl level Brooks has established, but that’s not what the Eagles are asking of him. 

“I had a conversation with [Pryor] Monday after I got the MRI to confirm (the Achilles tear),” Brooks said. “‘Hey man, you’re going to have to step up. Don’t look to be me. Look to be you. Whatever that takes for you to get ready from a mental standpoint, a physical standpoint, I’m here for you. Anything you need, I’m willing to help. When you get out there, do what you do.’ I have a whole bunch of faith in him.”

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Tra Thomas on Matt Pryor: 'My God, he could be nasty'

Tra Thomas on Matt Pryor: 'My God, he could be nasty'

It looks like Matt Pryor will get the first crack at right guard, and Pryor turned to a pretty good former Eagle to help him prepare.
 
Pryor reached out to Tra Thomas, the Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, as he prepares for the 2020 season.
 
“I’ve seen that Tra Thomas did a video cut-up of me and I reached out to him,” Pryor said on a podcast with Dave Spadaro on the Eagles’ official web site. “Get some tips … just to pick his brain.”
 
Thomas, who spent the 1998 through 2008 seasons with the Eagles, put together a video cut-up of Pryor from his limited playing time this past season and posted it on YouTube.
 
Thomas appeared Tuesday on 94 WIP with Ike Reese and Jon Marks and explained why he believes Pryor can handle right guard.
 
When Reese asked Thomas why he thinks Pryor can handle right guard with Brandon Brooks out for the season, Thomas jokingly snapped at his teammate of seven years:
 
“Did you not look at the clips? Did you not see what this man was doing against starters?”
 
Pryor, a sixth-round pick in 2018, didn’t play as a rookie but got significant snaps in three games last year — 42 snaps in the first Seattle game after Halapoulivaati Vaitai moved from right guard to right tackle to replace Andre Dillard, 35 snaps after Brooks hurt his shoulder in the regular-season finale against the Giants and then all 64 snaps in the playoff loss to the Seahawks.
 
“He might not have a lot of film, but (for) someone that only came out there and played (three) games, he had a hell of a showing,” Thomas said. “I saw enough out of him that I would feel somewhat comfortable for him out there.”


 
Thomas raved about Pryor’s technique and suggested he just needs to be more aggressive to succeed as a full-time starter.
 
Which is exactly what he told Pryor.
 
“My first tip was, ‘Dog, you have to finish every time,’" Thomas told Reese and Marks. “I just feel like if he had that little extra dog in him, my God, he could be nasty. He’s extremely aggressive, he has a good understanding of when to shoot his hands, the timing of it, and he also understands how to set based on how this defensive tackle is attacking him. So you don’t see him over-set a lot of times.”
 
Pryor said he’s been working out with a group of offensive linemen at Lane Johnson’s home gym in South Jersey — The House of Lane.
 
There are other options for the Eagles. They could sign a veteran, and youngsters like Sua Opeta, Nate Herbig and Jack Driscoll will certainly get looks.
 
But right now, it seems like the job is Pryor’s to lose.
 
“Sadly, nobody ever wants their opportunity to come from an injury, but a lot of people say that’s where a lot of people build their legacy, it’s always off some random kind of thing happening,” Pryor said. “But everybody knows Brooks. Three back-to-back Pro Bowls, and I saw him work and I’ve seen how he transformed himself from the end of last year to now and that’s really pushing me to better myself and be prepared. Big shoes right there.”
 
Brooks tore his Achilles on Monday while running at the NovaCare Complex. This will be the third straight season he doesn’t finish because of an injury.
 
“I’m going to be ready to go,” Pryor said. “It's time to take my game to a new level. I know the opportunity is there. You don't like it to happen when somebody gets hurt. We all feel for Brandon. But he will be helping me, as he's done in the past, and I'm going to be at my best.”
 
With a little help from one of the greatest Eagles offensive linemen of all.

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