It is that time a year again folks. The NHL and NBA are wrapping up their seasons. MLB will be playing its Mid-Summer Classic in about a month. And words like “OTAs” and “mini camps” are becoming popular in the world of football. That can only mean one thing: Training camps cannot be too far behind.
So with the next step towards the next NFL season closing in, it is time to take a closer look at the Philadelphia Eagles. When the team takes the field this coming season, there will be plenty of fresh faces donning the green and white.
On the offensive side of the ball, the team stockpiled some pretty well-known names at the skill positions. Desperate to improve their wide receiving corps, the team signed Alshon Jeffery to a one-year deal. They also brought in Torrey Smith, who will likely serve as the team’s third option. Then late in the offseason, LaGarrette Blount was added to give the running game some balance, as he will bring the powerful running style the team was lacking.
But while all the new skill players along with second-year signal caller Carson Wentz will get most of the buzz when training camp arrives, those players are not the ones holding the keys to success for this upcoming campaign. That honor goes to the unit that will be in charge of making sure they can all do their jobs effectively: The offensive line.
A team can only be as good as its offensive line. A few years back, the Eagles line was downright brutal. Last season was the first time in a long time that the team entered the year with relatively high hopes for the group. While they did hit some bumps in the road, the season was fairly decent for the unit as a whole.
Now as we enter the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, expectations are really high. Word has it that this is a deep and talented unit. So let’s take a closer look.
Left Tackle, Jason Peters – To put it simply, Peters is one of the best in the NFL. The left tackle enters the 14th year in a very successful career. At the age of 35 however, his best days are likely behind him. He did play a full season a year ago, but he has dealt with his share of injuries in the past. If he were to go down with any sort of injury this season, things would need to be shifted around a bit to accommodate. And the Eagles certainly do not want to deal with that.
Right Tackle, Lane Johnson – Like Peters, Johnson is one of the very best there is on the line on any team. The 27-year-old former first round pick has had his share of issues however since being drafted in 2013. He was suspended four games in the 2014 season for the use of performance enhancing drugs. Then before last season, he was slapped with a 10 game suspension for more issues with PEDs.
Looking ahead into the coming season, Johnson will look to put those suspensions behind him. In between those two run ins with the league, he has also dealt with a handful of injuries as well, but has played through them. The Eagles need a healthy and clean Johnson as they head into the future. The man is extremely talented. If he is on the field, they are a much better team. Like, a full touchdown better.
Right Guard, Brandon Brooks – Brooks made his debut in an Eagles uniform a season ago. He is a solid all-around player, as he helps in all facets of the game. It was a surprise to many when he missed a few games towards the end of the season. It was later revealed he was battling with anxiety, which seems like he has since gotten through.
He will certainly be a key cog in this machine. He can create holes for runners and he can help keep Wentz standing on his feet. As long as he does what the team knows he can do, they shouldn’t have to worry about the right guard spot.
Center – The center position will likely go to an aging veteran. Jason Kelce is seen to be the favorite by many. While he did not play great to open last season, he did improve as the season went on. However, he is an aging player with a contract that is not exactly the best. So, he will need to prove himself to win the starting role.
The Eagles handed Stefen Wisniewski a fairly expensive three-year contract. Now, he is the type of player that can fill in all over the line. However, that does make him an option to start at center. If the team feels confident enough in his abilities, they could very well cut bait with Kelce before the season begins. The line as a whole has a ton of depth, and that could be a way the club saves some money. Isaac Seumalo is another name worth watching, as he could be the sneaky candidate to take the job.
Isaac Seumalo is another name worth watching, as he could be the sneaky candidate to take the job. If he outperforms expectations, it’s possible Wisniewski becomes the flex guy and Kelce is indeed sent packing.
Left Guard – There is a good chance that the team wants this role to go to Chance Warmack. They signed him to a deal that was so cheap, he could easily be cut if things do not work out. But given his pedigree, he clearly has the highest ceiling of the options.
Warmack was taken only six picks after Lane Johnson in the first round of the 2013 draft out of Alabama. In Philly, he will get the chance to work with his old college line coach, Jeff Stoutland. If the two can rekindle some old magic, then this would be a steal for the Eagles.
But if things do not pan out with Chance, Allen Barbre will likely be next in line. Barbre is the type of player who is decent but not great. He is better served in a backup role, but could start if needed. So at the end of the day, he is certainly not the option Eagles’ fans should be hoping to see come week one.
Also, do not count out Seumalo or Wisniewski in this spot either if they do not win the center role and Warmack flops.
So this certainly has the potential to be a lockdown line. But I still have my questions. Peters and Johnson, two of the most talented lineman in the entire league, have shown the cracks in their armor. There is no lock they can keep on the field for a full season at their highest level given their histories.
The two spots being fought for will certainly be worth watching come training camp. The two older players battling it out for center are good, but I am not convinced either of them are studs at this point. Sloppy center play could be a major downfall for any team. So Eagles fans need to hope at least one guy grabs those reigns.
A team can have the all the best skill position players in the world, but if the line cannot do its job, any team or individual player will sink. Just look at poor Andrew Luck. He got battered by defenses, resulting in a number of injuries the last few seasons. When he first entered the league, he was seen as a top quarterback. But now, everyone loves to question him and his performance. Mainly because his line could not keep him upright.
The Eagles ranked mid-pack in several categories a season ago that can relate back to the line. They were 14th in sacks allowed per game, with Wentz going down just over twice a game. A good portion of their rushing numbers, which obviously is also greatly impacted by the runners themselves, but still relate to the line, were in the middle of the league as well.
So it does not matter how good Alshon Jeffery can be. If Wentz is not afforded the time to get him or Torrey Smith the ball, those new acquisitions would be nullified. The same can be said for Blount, who will rely heavily on his lineman to open up holes inside the line as he tries to work his way to the short yardage score.
At the end of the day, I feel this unit will be top 10 in the NFL. Pair that with the plethora of weapons they now have at the skill positions, and this could be a very successful season in Philly.
What do you think? Is the offensive line the key to a successful 2017-18 year for the Philadelphia Eagles? Tell us what you think in the comments!