One of the biggest question marks for the Eagles heading into next season is the readiness of second year left tackle Andre Dillard. He’ll be called upon to replace future Hall of Fame tackle Jason Peters this season, and some fans are worried he may not be ready just yet.
It’s understandable considering his inconsistent rookie outing. While he put together some solid performances against the Khalil Mack’s Bears and the Buffalo Bills, he had just as many bad performances, most notably against the Minnesota Vikings and their tandem of Pro Bowl pass rushers.
While it’s fair to have some skepticism for Dillard, it’s not fair to write him off. Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philly recently reported that Dillard has added an extra 15 pounds of mass so far this offseason, putting him at a solid 335 pounds.
Guard Brandon Brooks was the first to break the news on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Quick Slants.
“None of that college body, that noodle body, none of that,” Brooks said. “He’s been hitting the weights, man, getting strong. I tried to push him every day. You know how it is playing O-line, there’s no excuses, you gotta get it done.”
Dillard was listed at 315 pounds last season, though he claimed that he added five pounds before the start of the season. Adding some mass to his frame was imperative this offseason, so hearing about this 15-20 pound gain is great news.
Dillard already has very clean technique when it comes to pass sets and zone run blocking, he just didn’t have the mass behind him to produce the power needed to move NFL lineman.
Jason Kelce spoke candidly about Dillard earlier this offseason, reiterating that the major hurdle Dillard needs to clear this offseason is getting stronger.
“He already has the things that you can’t necessarily get better at,” Kelce said. “You want to make a guy quicker? It’s hard to do that. You want to make a guy faster? It’s hard to do that. As long as he’s got a big frame — and Andre’s got a frame to add plenty of weight –he’ll be able to correct on those little weaknesses from a year ago, and the other stuff is just more experience.”
Having two of his teammates speak publicly about their confidence in Dillard is huge and it should instill some confidence in the fan base.
We shouldn’t gloss over the fact that Jason Peters hasn’t been brought back yet, either. I understand the coaches haven’t been able to see Dillard with pads on yet, but they’ve obviously been in his ear about bulking up this summer and they’ve surely noticed Dillard’s hard work paying off.
Not bringing Peters back into the fold tells me that the coaching staff has a certain level of confidence in Dillard right now. That could change once training camp rolls around, but for now fans should be optimistic about Dillard’s future as the Eagles blindside protector.