Eagles Wake-Up Call: Finding Offensive Line Answers

Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Howard MuddOn March 29, King Dunlap was not on an NFL roster.

Less than three months later, he’s in the driver’s seat to be the Eagles’ starting left tackle.

With the opener just about two weeks away, the offensive line has question marks. The unit was anchored by Jason Peters in 2011, but the Pro Bowler ruptured his Achilles in the offseason. The Eagles moved quickly to sign Demetress Bell, but the free agent was replaced by Dunlap after the first preseason game.

And there are other questions too: How will Jason Kelce handle added responsibilities at the line of scrimmage? Can Danny Watkins eliminate the doubt that plagued him as a rookie? Will Evan Mathis be as effective without Peters to his left? And is Todd Herremans ready for a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy runs to his side?

There are depth issues as well. Last night, rookie Dennis Kelly started at right tackle in place of Herremans, who was dealing with a personal issue. Either he or Bell figures to be the first man up should the Eagles suffer an injury at tackle during the regular season. It’s unclear who would come in should Kelce, Mathis or Watkins go down.

And of course, there’s a trickle-down effect. For example, the uncertainty could mean Brent Celek having to stay in to block more, thus taking away one of Michael Vick’s weapons in the passing game.

The number one job remains the same: keep Vick clean. The quarterback has to make wise decisions in the pocket, but the line has to do its job.

“Don’t let the guy get hurt or hit,” Howard Mudd said back in July. “Don’t let him get hit, don’t let him get hit. That’s a mantra that we have.”

At the end of last season, the future of the O-Line seemed easy to process: With improvement from Watkins and Kelce, this group had a chance to be one of the best in the league in 2012.

And while there are glimmers of optimism – the Eagles have given up just one sack in three preseason games – Mudd, Andy Reid and company have to make sure they have the right answers by Week 1.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Foles-Mania is alive and well. Tim’s got the latest on the rookie QB from Cleveland.

Here are my instant observations from the Eagles’ 27-10 win over the Browns.

Reid provided a Vick update, said Dunlap is ahead of Bell and noted that Brian Rolle still has to hold off Jamar Chaney for the WILL linebacker spot.

It was posted before the game, but T-Mac revealed his latest 53-man roster projection.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

I really hate to be the guy who has to break the news to you, but Tim Tebow won’t play in the final preseason game when the Jets travel to the Linc to take on the Eagles Thursday night, Rex Ryan announced.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com unveiled his head coach power rankings. The first category, labeled Top Shelf, features Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh. The second group, labeled Next Level, has Mike McCarthy, Reid, Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin:

McCarthy is consistent and wildly underrated as one of the game’s best offensive minds. Payton is a brilliant tactician, but doesn’t excel at managing the whole organization quite as well as our top-shelf picks. Andy Reid’s consistency speaks for itself in a topsy-turvy league. The same is true for Coughlin, who hasn’t had a sub-.500 season with the New York Giants. Then again, he’s only had two seasons out of eight where the Giants won a playoff game. He made those years count.

It’s worth noting that Reid and Harbaugh are the only coaches in the top two categories without Super Bowl rings. Harbaugh, of course, is entering his second season with the 49ers.

Browns first-round pick Trent Richardson is expected to play Week 1 vs. the Eagles, after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But the rookie’s workload will be limited until he heals properly.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

  • calm weather

    The stuff about the offensive line was really below par for you, Sheil. It said nothing.