Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Will O-Line Switch Help? Backup Added

So, despite what we were led to believe after the Monday practice, King Dunlap is back in at left tackle for the Eagles and Demetress Bell is out. If Bell is to be measured by the Oct. 14 performance against the Lions, this is good news -- Dunlap can't possibly do worse than that. But as we've said before in this space, Dunlap has been around here since 2008, the rookie season he spent on IR. He's served three seasons on the active roster before this one, without ever earning more than a brief stint as a starter.

Will O-Line Switch Help? Backup Added

King Dunlap (above) is back in at left tackle for the Eagles and Demetress Bell is out. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
King Dunlap (above) is back in at left tackle for the Eagles and Demetress Bell is out. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

So, despite what we were led to believe after the Monday practice, King Dunlap is back in at left tackle for the Eagles and Demetress Bell is out. If Bell is to be measured by the Oct. 14 performance against the Lions, this is good news -- Dunlap can't possibly do worse than that. But as we've said before in this space, Dunlap has been around here since 2008, the rookie season he spent on IR. He's served three seasons on the active roster before this one, without ever earning more than a brief stint as a starter.

There are good reasons for this. One is that while Dunlap is 6-9, 330, and can be hard for a pass rusher to get around when he extends his arms and moves his feet, he often plays without great leverage. In the run game, he is a liability. Also, anytime Dunlap plays more than a game or two, he suffers some sort of injury -- concussion, back trouble, the hamstring he pulled in Game 3 this year. Dunlap is a useful plug-in sort of guy, a fifth starter, in baseball parlance.

It's hard to see the King as the answer to straightening out the Eagles' offensive line. Maybe he can hold down the fort for a month or a litle more, and Jason Peters' miraculous recovery from two Achilles' tears really can come to fruition. That's probably the Eagles' best hope at left tackle.

The tackles haven't been good, but the bigger problem might be the line's interior, where the Jason Kelce injury has left a jumbled, confused mess. Against Detroit, Dallas Reynolds did not resemble an NFL center. Why the Eagles apparently didn't look into any alternatives during the bye week is a mystery to me.

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I was talking to Brian Westbrook Monday on Comcast SportsNet's Daily News Live, and BWest and I agreed that there would have been no downside to inviting Jamaal Jackson over to NovaCare during the bye week for a chat and a workout. If he's way out of shape, fine, no harm done. If he looks at all like the guy who started 71 successive games at center for the Eagles from 2005-2009, then why not sign him?

Yeah, yeah, Howard Mudd's system, blah, blah, blah. As BWest noted, at least Jackson would get everybody lined up and blocking in the same direction, which was a struggle for Reynolds against the Lions. And I don't think I ever saw Jack fling a shotgun snap past the quarterback's ear while the QB was adjusting his wideouts.

The Birds did make a move Tuesday at center, releasing backup Steve Vallos and replacing him with Matt Tennant, cut by New England three days ago. Tennant was a fifth-round pick of the Saints out of Boston College in 2010 who played in New Orleans for two seasons before going to the Pats. Tennant has never played under Mudd, so he is unlikely to appear in the middle of the starting o-line anytime soon.

The switch to Mudd's singular, attacking blocking style is one reason the Eagles have such a problem with o-line depth. They have discarded veterans such as Jackson, Austin Howard, Mike McGlynn and Winston Justice, and even practice-squadders such as A.Q. Shipley, because they were Juan Castillo holdovers who didn't fit the Mudd system. All those guys are on NFL rosters today, by the way, playing at varying levels of competence. In two offseasons with Mudd, now-injured Jason Kelce is the only Eagles o-line draftee who has achieved unqualified success playing for him.

The Eagles seem determined not to call Jackson under any circumstances. Maybe Mudd has a plan that will make Reynolds look competent this week against the Falcons. and will keep Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins away from those jailbreak sequences we saw down the stretch against the Lions -- the ones where the defensive lineman is bearing down on the quarterback and the o-lineman is running after him, waving his arms like a crossing guard whose authority has been sneered at by a cheeky sixth-grader.

The Falcons have 16 sacks in six games, along with 10 interceptions. They've recovered seven fumbles. Their defense has to be really looking forward to this matchup.

Les Bowen Daily News Staff Writer
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