Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Eagles' O-line has been pleasant surprise

Four weeks into the season, the Eagles have several unanswered questions.

Eagles' O-line has been pleasant surprise

The Eagles´ offensive line has done a tremendous job of protecting Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb through the first three games. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
The Eagles' offensive line has done a tremendous job of protecting Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb through the first three games. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

Four weeks into the season, the Eagles have several unanswered questions.

What will Jeremiah Trotter's role be? How will they utilize Michael Vick going forward? Will Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook get healthy?

But the one area that appeared to be a huge concern entering the season -- the offensive line -- has been one of the most encouraging story lines through the first three games.

The Eagles have allowed three sacks, and their ground game is averaging a respectable 4.4 yard per carry.

Here's a look position-by-position at what we've seen from each offensive line position so far, and what we might expect going forward:

Right tackle: For the previous nine seasons, this position belonged to Jon Runyan. After the Eagles signed Stacy Andrews in the offseason, it appeared he was poised to take over. Then we found out during minicamp that Shawn Andrews would get a shot. And now? Winston Justice looks like he'll be the guy the rest of the season, and perhaps beyond. He's penalty-free through three games and has allowed only one sack (in Week 1 on a play where Kevin Kolb probably held on to the ball too long). Justice was given quite a bit of help against the Panthers, but the coaches had him on his own more in Weeks 2 and 3. He might have been most impressive in the loss to the Saints. Justice has been stronger in pass protection but has also shown flashes in the run game.

Right guard: Stacy Andrews and Max Jean-Gilles have shared this position. It was Andrews in Week 1 and Jean-Gilles in Week 2. MJG saw the majority of snaps in Week 3, although Andrews was rotated in there. Jean-Gilles has had some very impressive moments in the run game. In pass protection, he was part of the great effort against the Chiefs but had a couple lapses in the second half against New Orleans. He has not been called for a penalty. Andrews did not look as good as his fellow linemen in Week 1 and was replaced after explaining that he was still working on his technique with offensive line coach Juan Castillo. He's been whistled for two penalties. It's hard to imagine that the Eagles would continue to bench Andrews after signing him to a $40 million contract in the offseason. But then again, if anything, they've shown that they're going to go with the players that give them the best chance to win this season. Jean-Gilles has certainly played well enough to start.

Center: The one position on the line that's been drama-free since mini-camp. Jamaal Jackson was great in the Eagles' Week 1 win over the Panthers. A couple things to watch going forward. One, his job is to be the communicator. With a lot of moving parts, this is especially important. The Birds have had a few lapses in the interior on pass plays. Part of Jackson's job will be to keep everyone on the same page. The other area I'll be keeping an eye on is how Jackson blocks when he gets to the next level, particularly on screens, but also in the Wildcat. Jackson has not been called for a penalty this season.

Left guard: This was initially supposed to be Todd Herremans' job, but Nick Cole has filled in nicely. The Inquirer's Bob Brookover updated Herremans' health in today's paper. He said he's targeting the Oct. 26 game against the Redskins for a return. That would mean two more games with Cole at left guard. Cole has not been as consistent as some of the other linemen, but he's had some real bright spots in the run game. He's been whistled for two penalties on the season.

Left tackle: Since being whistled for two false starts early against the Panthers, it's been smooth sailing for Jason Peters. He was close to perfect last week against the Chiefs and was also good against the Saints, except for a late lapse that resulted in a sack. It will be interesting to see how much the Eagles run the Wildcat to the left side to take advantage of Peters' athleticism, which was on display in Week 1 against the Panthers.

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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