The Eagles’ offensive line is one of, if not the best, in all of football. Four of their five projected starters have made at least two Pro Bowls in their career. Their depth is a mix of established, passable veterans and high upside young guys. Incredibly, the Eagles returned 9 offensive linemen from last season’s team, adding only first round pick Andre Dillard to the group this year. Ask any offensive line coach what they most want from a five man unit, and they’re going to say talent. But ask them what they second-most want, and they’re going to say continuity. The Eagles have both in spades.
The Starting Five
Does Jason Peters even need an introduction? The Bodyguard returns for his 11th season as an Eagle. After tearing his ACL and MCL in 2017 and suffering through multiple minor injuries in 2018, Jason Peters looks to return healthier than he has been in years. At some point, Peters may be forced to retire. Just don’t tell him that.
Next to Peters is Isaac Seumalo, the weakest of the starting five. A 2016 third round pick, Seumalo is more valuable for his versatility than his skill at any one offensive line position. It is not unreasonable to believe that the Eagles may have been more interested in drafting a guard than a tackle in this year’s draft, but the board didn’t fall that way to them. He’s fine, but that’s about it.
Manning the middle is everybody’s favorite mummer, Jason Kelce. Kelce might be the lightest offensive lineman in the whole league. A 280 pound lineman just…isn’t a thing. Yet there Kelce is, not only doing it but doing it at a Pro Bowl/All Pro level. Kelce’s technique combined with a scheme tailor-made for his unique talents have allowed Kelce to flourish. Watch Kelce get downfield – it’s a thing of beauty.
At right guard is Brandon Brooks. Coming off a torn achilles, it was safe to assume that Brooks would miss at least the first month of the season and perhaps more. Somehow, he could be back in time for the season opener. If he can play at even 85-90% of his previous level, he’s still a significant upgrade over the other options on the roster. Torn achilles are typically career-enders, so hopefully Brooks can be the exception. Brooks’ combination of size, speed, and power is just not replaceable.
Lane Johnson is the other bookend. Expected to transition to left tackle when Peters retired, Johnson instead has found his permanent home on the right side. Another athletic freak, Johnson had an up and down 2018 and appears to have a chip on his shoulder which could lead to a fantastic 2019.
The Backup Three
Andre Dillard has been taking snaps as the second string left tackle. I have already explored him in-depth here. He appears to be the left tackle of the future, whenever the future arrives.
Stefan Wisniewski is a veteran who wanted to leave the Eagles this offseason after being upset with how he was used last season. Much like Furkan Korkmaz, he discovered the grass was not, in fact, greener on the other side and accepted a reasonable deal to come back. Veteran interior line depth is never a bad thing, and Wisniewski will once again take his spot as the backup left guard and center.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai has a hard name to spell. After spending time at both right tackle and left tackle with various degrees of unsuccess, the Eagles have moved Vaitai inside to right guard. He is a key to watch in preseason, as he will likely be taking first team snaps in the absence of Brooks. Vaitai will be expected to be the primary backup at RG and RT.
The first eight spots are accounted for. That leaves 1-2 spots for the 53 man roster and 1-2 spots for the practice squad.
Jordan Mailata is a 22 year old in his second year of pro football, and nobody was hurt more by the drafting of Dillard. Mailata was forced to move from left tackle to right tackle this offseason and has really struggled with the switch. Still, given the amount of time they have invested in him and the potential payoff, I don’t expect Mailata to go anywhere any time soon, including the 45 man gameday roster. Another year of learning on the inactive 53 seems to be on the horizon. It’s just too early to give up on him.
Matt Pryor was the Eagles’ 6th round pick in 2018 and has really struggled so far in camp and preseason. His ability to play both tackle and guard earned him a 53 man job last year, but with that versatility becoming a little less necessary this year, it may not be enough for him to make the squad if he can’t show a little more talent.
Sua Opeta received the largest signing bonus of this year’s Eagles’ UDFAs. He received a lot of buzz as a small school prospect before going undrafted. Based on reports out of camp, he has been a good run blocker but a poor pass blocker, and the first preseason game did nothing to dispel that. If the Eagles keep 10 OL on their 53 man roster, Opeta could make it. Otherwise, he’ll hope to stick on the practice squad.
Nate Herbig was riding high off his sophomore season before disaster struck in his junior season, with a bad combine leading him to be undrafted. He was tied for the highest guaranteed money of this year’s UDFA crop for the Eagles, so they obviously like what they saw. Herbig is fighting with Opeta for a spot with the team.
The Eagles’ starting five and top eight are about as good as it gets in the league. Nobody has a good ninth lineman – too many teams need them for that to happen. Really, there’s not much to say that Eagles fans don’t already know – again, this entire group is back from last season. Talented and deep, Wentz should have plenty of time to get comfortable and throw all season long.