Looking across the Eagles offensive line, there really aren’t many question marks if everyone is able to stay healthy. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson are all Pro Bowl to All Pro players, while Isaac Seumalo has been a serviceable guard throughout his tenure. Then you get to the left tackle spot, arguably the most important position along the line. The Eagles have two young, promising players in Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata.
Dillard was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft with the hopes that he would take over for future Hall of Fame tackle Jason Peters in the coming years. Mailata, on the other hand, was always seen as a project with low risk/high reward potential.
The script was flipped a bit last season after Dillard suffered a season ending injury during camp, and Mailata played the majority of the season protecting the blind side. And after seeing the former rugby star take tremendous strides at the position, it’s his job to lose heading into next year.
2020 was a big year for Dillard. We didn’t really know if he was the answer at left tackle, given his subpar play as a rookie. Dillard surrendered 25 total pressures on 183 pass blocking snaps in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. Meaning he allowed a pressure every seven passing plays.
While he did show flashes of solid play during his rookie campaign — in two starts against Buffalo and Chicago he posted a 72.0 and 71.9 PFF grade respectively — the bad outweighed the good when you look at his entire season.
It’s unfortunate that Dillard suffered a season ending injury right before a very pivotal year in his young career.
With Dillard sidelined, Mailata took advantage of the extended playing time he was given and played at a much more consistent level than Dillard did. He allowed 32 pressures on 502 pass blocking snaps, or one pressure per 16 snaps.
While there’s still room for improvement there, the most promising aspect of Mailata’s play last year was his gradual development. According to PFF, Mailata was the 15th highest ranked tackle in football from Week 11 onward, just behind Jets rookie Mekhi Becton.
That development should only continue into next season. He’ll still only be 24 years old heading into next year, and we can’t forget that he’ll have the best offensive line coach in the business, Jeff Stoutland, helping him along the way.
As for Dillard, he’s still a great depth piece along the Birds’ offensive front. And if a starting left tackle on a contending team goes down with injury during the season, Dillard could be a hot commodity on the trade market. Whether he’ll just be a depth piece or a trade piece, he still holds value for the Eagles.
While it doesn’t look like the original plan for Peters’ heir apparent is going to happen, fans should feel confident that Mailata will be able to handle the starting duties next season.