Thursday, November 27, 2014
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Making sense of the Eagles' O-line shakeup

When the Eagles took the field in January to face the Packers in the wild-card round of the playoffs, their offensive line looked like this: Jason Peters (LT), Todd Herremans (LG), Mike McGlynn (C), Nick Cole (RG) and Winston Justice (LT).

Making sense of the Eagles' O-line shakeup

Todd Herremans is the Eagles´ new starting right tackle. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Todd Herremans is the Eagles' new starting right tackle. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

When the Eagles took the field in January to face the Packers in the wild-card round of the playoffs, their offensive line looked like this: Jason Peters (LT), Todd Herremans (LG), Mike McGlynn (C), Nick Cole (RG) and Winston Justice (LT).

When the 2011 Eagles take the field in two weeks against the Rams, there's a good chance that the only player lining up in the same place will be Peters.

That's because the coaching staff today made the move fans have been asking about for weeks, sliding Herremans over to right tackle (more on that move from Eagletarian and Birds' Eye View).

So where does the most recent shakeup leave Michael Vick's protection now that the third preseason game is in the books? Let's go position-by-position:

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Left tackle: It might not seem like the moves affect Peters, but they do. Peters started 14 games last season (including the playoffs), and played at a Pro Bowl level. His left guard was Herremans. The pair provided a boost to the Eagles' run game. LeSean McCoy averaged 5.8 yards per carry to the left side, compared to 4.4 to the right. Peters and Herremans were good in pass protection too. Now Peters will have to get used to playing alongside Mathis. It shouldn't be the most difficult thing in the world, but with teams likely to focus on confusing Vick at the line of scrimmage, communication and chemsitry will be important.

Left guard: I talked to Mathis during practice last week and asked him about playing right tackle. He said he thought he was capable of succeeding there, but confirmed that most of his practice reps were coming at guard. And that's where he'll play going forward. Mathis has been active for 58 career games in six NFL seasons, having started 22 of them. But he hasn't been a full-time starter since 2006 when he was with the Panthers. In 2009, he started seven games and became a favorite of the crew over at Pro Football Focus. In the preseason, Mathis has played well - both at guard and at tackle. He'll turn 30 in November and signed with the Eagles for this very opportunity. Now he gets the chance to make the most of it.

Center: I wrote about Jason Kelce and Jamaal Jackson at length in Man Up today. But to recap, Jackson has played better in the preseason. He has looked healthy and effective and brings 72 career starts to the table. Kelce has shown flashes, and it's easy to realize what the Eagles see in him. But he had several issues Thursday night, which you'd expect from a rookie. The situation is fluid, but at this point, it looks like the coaches are going to give Kelce every shot to win the job. As I've mentioned, I don't see the harm in starting the season with Jackson and then moving to Kelce if necessary, but that doesn't seem to be how the Eagles feel.

Right guard: I offered several thoughts on Danny Watkins in Man Up also. He had a bad game Thursday night, but isn't going anywhere. It should help Watkins to some extent to play next to an experienced lineman in Herremans. It might help him even more to play in between two veterans in Herremans and Jackson. At some point this season, I think Watkins will become a very good player. The question is whether that will happen in the first month of the season or the last month of the season. And Watkins needs to make sure his first-year struggles don't get Vick killed.

Right tackle: I'm sure the Eagles would have preferred keeping Herremans at guard, for the reasons I described above. But with the Ryan Harris injury and so much uncertainty surrounding Winston Justice's future, this was a move they felt they had to make. We know Herremans is a good offensive lineman, probably the Eagles' second-best blocker behind Peters. But we don't know what level he will play at as a tackle. King Dunlap was alright, but it's clear the coaching staff didn't trust him to be a full-time starter. If they did, they wouldn't have signed Harris or Reggie Wells. And they obviously wouldn't have made the Herremans switch. We'll see how long it takes for him to again get used to playing tackle, but the Herremans move makes sense, and he seems like their best option there at this point.

OTHER THOUGHTS

* Some have asked if Jackson can play guard. While Andy Reid didn't rule it out earlier this week, it's hard to believe he'd provide a better option than Mathis. All 72 of Jackson's career starts have come at center.

* The Eagles' roster decisions along the offensive line became more interesting with these moves also. Here are all the guys currently on the roster: Dunlap, Herremans, Harris, Austin Howard, Jackson, Spencer Johnson, Kelce, Mathis, Mike McGlynn, Peters, Dallas Reynolds, A.Q. Shipley, Fenuki Tupou, Julian Vandervelde, Watkins, Winston Justice and Reggie Wells.

The locks? Herremans, Kelce, Mathis, Peters, Watkins.

The guys who are likely gone? Harris, Johnson, McGlynn, Reynolds, Shipley and Tupou.

That leaves Justice, Dunlap, Howard, Jackson, Vandervelde and Wells. At tackle, behind Herremans and Peters, the Eagles' options are Dunlap, Howard, Justice and Wells. Dunlap has played good enough to warrant a backup spot. Howard will likely be cut. Justice could start the season on PUP, and that could potentially open up a spot for Wells, who played relatively well Thursday night.

The Herremans move hurts interior depth. As the roster currently stands, if Watkins or Mathis were to get injured, Jackson or Vandervelde would have to step in.


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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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