After suffering a season-ending injury last October, Jason Peters is expected to reprise his role as the Eagles’ left tackle in 2018. But the way Halapoulivaati Vaitai performed in Peters’ place, there were some suggesting the team should’ve traded or even released the nine-time Pro Bowl selection.
Are the Eagles better or worse with Peters on the offensive line at this point? By now, you should probably know the answer.
This may be considered controversial. Peters is 36 and coming off a pair of torn ligaments in his right knee. There’s no guarantee the future Hall of Famer will return to his once dominant form, or even perform at a high level.
Yeah, yeah. This isn’t the first time Peters has been written off. They said the same thing when he ruptured his Achilles twice during the same 2012 offseason, then he was back to his dominant self in 2013. They said he was in decline after an injury-plagued 2015, and he’s played some of the best football of his career ever since, which is saying something.
Nothing against Vaitai – though perhaps he’s now a tad overrated since aiding the Eagles’ Super Bowl win. Peters is an athletic marvel, and even at 75 percent, he’s better than half the left tackles in the NFL.
You tell us. Everybody is back, minus 33-year-old emergency left tackle Will Beatty, who signed midway through last season and didn’t play a meaningful down. The oldest returning O-lineman besides Peters is center Jason Kelce at 30.
Even if Peters can’t play, the Eagles still have Vaitai, so they can always go back. At worst, the unit should look roughly the same, not accounting for any new injuries.
One area where keeping things the same is almost always a positive is along the offensive line. The ability of these five players to work together in concert is such a crucial aspect of the job.
It’s also something the Eagles shouldn’t have to worry about for the foreseeable future. Kelce, right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson have played alongside each other for two years. Stefen Wisniewski has a full season under his belt at left guard. And whether it’s Peters or Vaitai at left tackle, both worked roughly half a season next to Wisniewski. If anything, continuity might be improved.
That extends to the bench as well. Vaitai has experience at right tackle. Swing guard Chance Warmack played alongside an array of guys on either side of the line, but always next to Kelce. The top seven in this group are perfectly capable of adjusting on the fly if necessary, while maintaining a level of familiarity.
When an offensive line’s greatest unknown is the backup center, that’s usually a good sign. That being said, Seumalo is a curiosity at this point, and it’s impossible to know whether he can be trusted in his new role.
A third-round draft pick in 2016, Seumalo looked OK in spot duty as a rookie – good enough that the Eagles awarded him the left guard job out of training camp last year. Two weeks into the season, he was on the bench, and lately he’s practicing primarily at center.
It’s unclear whether the Eagles would even turn to Seumalo in a pinch. The 24-year-old is very much on the roster bubble. But assuming he does make the squad, he’s scary until proven otherwise, no matter where he is on the field.
Better or worse?
The Eagles had the best offensive line in the NFL last season. Occasionally, in a situation like that, there might be reason to project regression on the horizon, no matter how good the individual players are.
Yet Johnson, Brooks and Wisniewski are all under age 30, and Peters is back in the mix. The Eagles also invested late-round draft picks in Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata, which should strengthen the back end of the roster. This group easily looks BETTER.