For years, the Eagles offensive line has been the anchor of their offense. Howie Roseman will always invest heavily into both his offensive front as well as his defensive front, he’s made that clear through both his actions and his words.
Let’s take a look how this year’s iteration of the offensive line will look.
In 2020, the Eagles starting offensive line will look a little different than it has in recent seasons. For starters, 2019’s first round selection Andre Dillard will enter the year as the starting left tackle, the first time someone not named Jason Peters has been the blindside protector since 2008.
Peters will still be a prominent player along the Birds line, though. After cutting ties with the 38-year-old veteran early in the offseason, the front office brought him back to help fill the void left by Brandon Brooks at right guard, who suffered a devastating Achilles tear about a month back.
Losing an All-Pro talent like Brooks will be nearly impossible to fully replace — he’s simply the best guard in football, how do you replace that without missing a step offensively? Obviously the hope is that Peters can transition to guard and be effective. That’s no guarantee, but given Peters Hall of Fame career and his history of changing positions (he switched to left tackles after going undrafted as a tight end out of college), the odds of him being at least serviceable are higher than not.
As for the the rest of the line, it should look the same as last season. Lane Johnson at right tackle, Jason Kelce at center with Isaac Seumalo at left guard.
After losing Big V during the free agency period this offseason, Howie made a concerted effort to fill the voided depth through the draft. In the fourth round the team snagged Auburn tackle/guard Jack Drsicoll, and then took his teammate, Prince Tega Wangho, in the sixth.
Don’t expect either of these rookies to get much playing time in 2020, but they’re both solid developmental pieces who should serve as great depth for the line. Driscoll will likely get moved to the interior of the line to provide depth behind both guard positions, while Tega Wangho will compete with Jordan Mailata for the backup tackle position.
In regards to the backup tackle spot, I would imagine that if either Lane or Dillard gets hurt, they’ll shift Jason Peters back to tackle and bring Matt Pryor in to play guard. So regardless of who wins the backup battle between Tega Wangho and Mailata, they’re still essentially third on the depth chart.
Nate Herbig will likely be the backup center again, and Sua Opeta will be another depth piece at guard. With the backup center role, Herbig probably wouldn’t be the first person called if Kelce goes down, similarly to the Mailata/Tega Wangho battle to be backup tackle. If Kelce went down, they’ll shift Seumalo down to center like they have in the past and again bring in Pryor to play guard.
All in all, the depth along the offensive line is better than it’s been in recent years. Losing a versatile guys like Big V who can fill in at tackle or guard if need be does sting a little, but after seeing the contract he received from Detroit (five-year, $50 million), the pill is a little easier to swallow. Plus, having two backups on rookies contracts will save the team money down the line.
The success of this year’s offensive line will be placed on the shoulders of Andre Dillard. If he proves to be a bust of a first round pick, the entire line will suffer. But there is optimism from some of his teammates, which gives me hope that he’ll be just fine out there.
The main cause of all Dillard’s struggles last season was his small stature and subpar strength. According to reports, both of those things aren’t an issue anymore. He’s put on nearly 30 pounds of muscle during his workouts with fellow offensive lineman this offseason. Here’s what Brandon Brooks had to say about Dillard on his appearance on NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“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.”
If Dillard shows up and plays like the first round talent he is, the offensive line will be just fine.
There are some fair questions about Peters as well, transitioning to guard at 38 probably won’t be easy. But he’s a better starting option than Pryor right now, and he’s playing on a very cheap deal (one-year, $6 million).
The Birds offensive line will once again be the team’s calling card in 2020.