One player that most fans are seeming to forget about is 2019 first round pick Andre Dillard. After an up-and-down rookie season, he came into last offseason primed to have a breakout sophomore campaign. We heard from veteran lineman Brandon Brooks and Jason Kelce that Dillard looked bigger and stronger, without losing the athleticism that made him worthy of a first round selection.
But even despite the praise, Dillard underperformed during camp in 2020. He notably got pancaked into Carson Wentz’s legs by former undrafted free agent Joe Ostman during 11-on-11 drills.
Then the injury. He tore his bicep in late August last year, which gave way to Jordan Mailata having a breakout season of his own. Mailata finished the year with a 70.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, and he allowed seven sacks on 502 passing plays.
At just 24 years old, the future seems bright for Mailata, especially under the tutelage of Jeff Stoutland. He and Dillard are set to battle it out at camp for the starting left tackle spot, but my money’s on Mailata to win the job.
Does that make Dillard expendable? Possibly.
The team went out on Wednesday and signed veteran swing-tackle Le’Raven Clark from the Colts. But he’s coming off a torn Achilles in December 2020, meaning he probably won’t be ready for the start of the 2021 season. The Eagles also have a number of other young players that bring depth to the tackle position, most notably Brett Toth and Jack Driscoll.
So, if Howie and the coaching staff feels comfortable with Mailata manning the left tackle spot, and they have enough confidence in Toth, Driscoll, and Clark to provide adequate depth behind him, that could make Dillard the odd man out.
Despite having a subpar career so far, we still don’t really know what he is as he enters year three. Given that, there could be a team that views him as a low-risk, high-reward trade asset. It’s unclear what kind of draft compensation Dillard could yield, or what kind of player he may be able to bring to the Eagles in a trade.
Regardless, I’m not so sure trading Dillard at this point is really worth it.
Even if he doesn’t start, he’s the best backup lineman on the roster and he can play multiple positions along the line. The offensive line as a whole has had trouble staying healthy over the past few years and as they get older, the injuries will only continue.
Having an extra draft pick or two is always alluring, but if Dillard brings back, say, a fourth round pick, the Eagles are likely going to get a backup caliber player with that pick. Which is exactly what Dillard is right now. Maybe Howie can work his magic and get a team to cough up a second or third round pick, but that won’t happen unless a starter goes down in camp and a team is desperate for a left tackle.
While Mailata has a lot of promise, we still don’t know for certain that he’s the left tackle of the future either. The Eagles should keep their options open on this one and not get greedy with an extra late round draft pick. Dillard has nice value as a backup, and who knows, maybe he does end up starting in 2021. Only time will tell.
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