Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How much does loss of Jackson hurt?

Eagles coach Andy Reid announced Monday that center Jamaal Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

How much does loss of Jackson hurt?

Eagles center Jamaal Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, coach Andy Reid announced Monday. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles center Jamaal Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, coach Andy Reid announced Monday. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Eagles coach Andy Reid announced Monday that center Jamaal Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

So what does this mean for the Eagles' offensive line, which has dealt with a lack of continuity on and off all season?

Let's start with Jackson's replacement: Nick Cole.

Cole slid over from his usual spot at right guard to take over for Jackson. Forget blocking, calling out assignments and everything else. We'll get to that in a second.

The big thing concern here is to just make sure the ball is snapped cleanly. A botched snap leading to a turnover could easily be the difference next week against the Cowboys, or in the postseason.

I re-watched the offensive snaps last night and will post Man Up later, but there were two instances where the Eagles had trouble with the snap. On one play, Donovan McNabb was in the shotgun and LeSean McCoy moved quickly to pick up a blitzer. So quickly that he hit the ball as it was snapped from Cole to McNabb, but the Eagles recovered.

The other instance was when the Eagles were backed up at their own 1-yard line. That one appeared to be on Cole, who hit himself on the snap, with McNabb under center, leading to a fumble. The Eagles once again recovered.

Will that improve with Cole practicing at center? Yes. Will McNabb and Cole be as comfortable as McNabb and Jackson at any point this season? Doubtful.

In terms of what else the Eagles will be missing, check out Jeff McLane's well-done piece on Jackson from Sunday's Inquirer. It details all the positive contributions Jackson had made to the team: leadership, durability, consistency.

In terms of calling out assignments, it's tough to predict how Cole will perform. Earlier in the season, when the Eagles surrendered sacks, it was often due to miscommunication, not execution. As the pass protection improved (yesterday notwithstanding), those communication issues went away. But will they return now that the line is being shuffled again?

And finally, just plain old blocking. Cole has had an up and down season there. He's shown some great flashes, particularly as a run blocker, but has not been consistent. The good news is he turned in one of his best performances of the season against the 49ers. The bad news is he struggled at times against the Giants and Redskins earlier this season.

There's also the subject of who will replace Cole at right guard. The obvious choice would be Max Jean-Gilles, who stepped in yesterday and saw significant action earlier this season. At times, Jean-Gilles has looked like a devastating run blocker. I remember being very impressed with his performance in the first half against the Saints.

But there's a reason why Cole has been playing right guard instead of him. Can Jean-Gilles provide the type of consistency the Eagles need at this critical juncture of their season?

The other option, of course, would be Stacy Andrews, who Reid said would be in the mix. Andrews has not been active since Week 10. It would be quite the story if Andrews showed he was healthy and validated the Eagles' six-year $38.9M contract.

But, again, there's a reason the guy has not been active for the last six weeks.

The Eagles' offensive line was a big question mark when the season started back in September. And now as the team enters Week 17 with an 11-4 record, it's in focus once again.

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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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