One of Andy Reid's favorite sayings during his 14 years as the Eagles' head coach was, "It starts up front.''
It's a cliché, and Reid hardly is the only coach to say it. But it's true. You can have all the talent in the world at the skill positions. But if you don't have a solid offensive line, it's not going to matter.
Which brings us to the Eagles.
Earlier this month, the website Pro Football Focus released its 1-to-32 rankings of the league's offensive lines, and guess who was up there at the tippy top? That's right. The Eagles.
"My father-in-law sent me the link,'' right tackle Lane Johnson said when asked if he had seen the rankings. "It's all good. I guess it's better than hearing about Dallas' offensive line week in and week out from [PFF owner and Sunday Night Football analyst] Cris Collinsworth.
"Obviously, they're saying we've got the talent, and we've got the ability. We still have to go out there and play. But I'm confident with the guys we've got.''
Pro Football Focus probably got a little carried away and/or is hoping to boost its subscriber base in the Philadelphia area. That said, the Eagles could have a very good offensive line this season if …
— Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters can squeeze one more solid season out of his 35-year-old body.
— Center Jason Kelce can be more consistent than he was a year ago.
— Isaac Seumalo or Chance Warmack can stabilize the left guard spot.
"I felt good about this line last year, and I feel good about us now,'' said right guard Brandon Brooks. "We're building something special up front. This is probably the best offensive line I've been a part of since I've been in the league.
"We've got a Hall of Famer at left tackle. We've got a promising young player [Seumalo] at left guard. Kelce is one of the best to do it at center. We've got me at right guard and Lane at right tackle. I think that's a pretty damn good group.''
Said Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, "This is a really good group. I feel like the majority of the players that are here right now are ready to play. They could go play right now and win football games.''
NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, who spent 11 years in the league as an offensive lineman, said the Eagles' depth up front "is as good as anybody's in the league.'' He agrees the line can be pretty good, though he's not sure what the boys at PFF were drinking when they concluded that the Eagles' offensive line is better than the Cowboys'.
"The Eagles don't have a guy like [all-pro right guard] Zack Martin,'' he said. "And [center] Travis Frederick is better than Kelce. And [left tackle] Tyron Smith is what Jason Peters was five years ago. And La'el Collins is just a mean, nasty son of a gun at right tackle.
"As much as I like Lane and Jason [Peters] and what Brandon Brooks can be when he's out there, I just don't see it. I respect Cris Collinsworth as much as anybody. But I just don't see the Eagles' line being in the same category as the Cowboys'.''
For Baldinger, the two biggest keys for the Eagles' offensive line are Peters and Kelce. The Eagles did a nice job last year of managing Peters from the standpoint of giving him rest during the week so that he'd be ready to go on Sundays. A year after the poorest season of his career, a year after most people thought he was done, Peters started 16 games and played at a Pro Bowl level. They're going to take the same approach this year.
"I don't want to say he can't do it,'' Baldinger said. "Because I didn't think he could do what he did last year. I thought his legs were gone. The power that he once had was diminishing. But it looked like both of those things were back last year.''
"He was fresh all the way through the entire season,'' Stoutland said.
Kelce struggled last season. He has added weight to help him deal with the bigger defensive tackles who were able to get penetration on him last year. But Baldinger isn't sure that's the answer.
"I don't really know if it's about weight with Jason,'' he said. "He just doesn't have a big frame. He's athletic and can really run, but that's not what this offense really is about anymore.''
Most observers believe Seumalo, who opened camp as the team's No. 1 left guard, will move over and replace Kelce at some point, but not this season.
With quarterback Carson Wentz in only his second season, the coaching staff would prefer a veteran center in front of him. They have Stefen Wisniewski but would rather use him as the guard-center swingman.
"They don't even seem to be challenging Kelce,'' Baldinger said. "I mean, I know the mental part is important. And I know Jason is good at that.
"Making sure everybody knows redirects and change of protections and that. I know he's good with that stuff, and I'm sure Carson is comfortable with him.