The Eagles offensive line was a talking point all season in 2020 — for all the wrong reasons. Down two starters before the season even began (Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard), the Eagles offensive line continued to get decimated with injuries all throughout the year.
By the end of November, the team had used 10 different starting offensive line combinations. The revolving door at Brooks’ vacant right guard spot was an ongoing circus nearly every week; Lane Johnson missed over half the season with ankle issues. Every week, there seemed to be a new injury along the offensive front.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The team was able to get a good look at the depth they have and some of the young talent that’s waiting in the wings. Jordan Mailata, in particular, made a name for himself last season and may have earned himself a starting spot this year based on his play at left tackle.
Players like Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, and Sua Opeta all proved they can be valuable assets as depth pieces along the line. Not to mention second round pick Landon Dickerson, who figures to at least get some playing time this year and be a phenomenal backup in the mean time.
Heading into the year, there’s more positives than negatives with this group. The fact that none of them have gotten injured yet is remarkable in itself and something we as fans should be ecstatic about — as sad as that may sound.
Let’s take a look at the good and the bad with the Eagles offensive line as they prepare for the 2021 season.
All of the projected starters along this offensive line are solid — if not great. The starting five figures to look something like this (from left to right): Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson.
Brooks and Johnson, when healthy, form perhaps the best right side of any offensive line in the NFL. Although they’re both going to enter the season at 31 years old, they’ve still proven to be dominant in recent seasons when at full health.
Prior to 2020, Johnson had made three straight Pro Bowls, including a first-team All-Pro selection in 2017. Brooks had also made three straight Pro Bowls before last season, and was considered by many to be the best guard in football during the 2019 season, despite not getting an All-Pro selection. He finished the season with a 92.8 overall grade per Pro Football Focus, the highest grade for any guard in 2019.
At center we have the always reliable Jason Kelce, who hasn’t missed a start since 2014. He’s been one of the best centers in football over the past decade, racking up five Pro Bowl nods and three first-team All-Pro selections since 2014. This may be his last year — at least that’s what most fans are expecting — but the team was able to snag who they hope to be his heir apparent, Landon Dickerson.
Dickerson was arguably the best interior offensive lineman entering this year’s draft. If it wasn’t for his injury history, he likely would’ve been a high first round pick. He’s still rehabbing from the torn ACL he suffered in December of last year, but all signs are pointing towards him being ready by the start of the season.
The left side of the line isn’t as spectacular as the right side, but they certainly hold their own. Isaac Seumalo has become one of the more underrated players on this Eagles team. He’s taken great strides since being a third round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Seumalo went from a nice depth piece to a valuable starter along this offensive line in the four years he’s been with the team.
Then finally, we have the left tackle position. Presumably, Mailata will win this starting spot in camp over Dillard. We can’t say with any certainty yet — maybe Dillard comes into camp with a vengeance this year and blows everyone away — but it feels like it’s Mailata’s job to lose.
By default, Mailata is probably the weakest link on this offensive line. If someone with Mailata’s raw skills is your offensive line’s worst starter, that says a lot about the rest of the starters up front.
This line has all the talent in the world and should be one of the best position groups on this team in 2021. There’s really only one thing that can hold them back…
While there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to this line’s talent across the board, it’s impossible to gloss over just how much the starting five has been injured over the past few seasons. The only starter who didn’t miss a game last season was Kelce. Everyone else missed at least 10 games, with the exception of Mailata, who was active for 15 games but only started in 10.
There are reasons to be optimistic about this group’s health in 2021, though.
Johnson had offseason surgery to repair his nagging ankle issues; Brooks is a freak of nature and has recovered from torn Achilles before and has come back even stronger. Seumalo started all 16 games in 2019 and has never missed extensive time outside of last season. Dillard missed all of last season with injury, but Mailata proved to be a steady body along the Eagles line in 2020.
Despite my optimism, the fact of the matter is this offensive line is aging. Injuries don’t get better with age, we all know that. There’s really no predicting how long these guys can stay fully healthy.
It’s something we’ll just have to wait out. But, if this line does remain healthy for at least the majority of the season, the offense should be in good hands. They have the depth to mitigate an injury here and there, but no offensive line is built to withstand the amount of injuries they suffered last season.