Eagles Wake-Up Call: Taking Stock Of the O-Line

Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Howard MuddThe area where the Eagles are most likely to shake up personnel during the bye week is the offensive line.

The problem? They don’t have a lot of options. We’ll see if they sign someone or even make a trade. But given the way the roster currently stands, let’s take a look at all five spots to see where things could be headed in the final 10 games.

Left tackle: King Dunlap won the starting job out of camp and was the man the first two weeks before suffering an injury. Since then, it’s been Demetress Bell. The Eagles are looking for adequate out of this spot, not great. They know none of their current options is going to be Jason Peters. I thought Bell gave them adequate a couple weeks ago against the Steelers. But he struggled big-time against the Lions.

The key with Bell is this: Do you think he can be significantly better a few weeks from now? If the answer is yes, you stick with him. After all, this is the guy the Eagles targeted in the offseason to fill in for Peters, and he comes with a track record of having started 24 games prior to 2012. But if you anticipate him playing more games like last week, you have to make a change. One option, and probably the most likely, is to go back to Dunlap. The other (and a longshot) would be to throw rookie Dennis Kelly into the mix.

Left guard: Evan Mathis has not been as consistent as last year, but he’s the least of the concerns on the offensive line. The Eagles took a look at Chris Williams yesterday. He started nine games at left guard for the Bears last year.

Center: Jason Kelce’s injury has simply been devastating. He started the first two games, and since then, it’s been Dallas Reynolds. The offense had a pair of botched snaps last game, one of which resulted in a turnover. You can live with Reynolds missing blocks and getting beaten, but errors like the snap that sailed past Michael Vick will kill this team.

The Eagles have veteran Steve Vallos on the roster, but all signs indicate they’re not too confident in him. Remember, Reynolds beat out Vallos in the preseason. And even though the Eagles brought Vallos back, he’s been inactive the past two games. Instead of having him dress as Reynolds’ backup, the Eagles have gone with Mathis. So if you’re looking for a truly outside-the-box idea, that might be it – give Mathis a shot at center.

Last week, when I was asked Todd Herremans why the Eagles have improved against the blitz, he pointed to preparation and mentioned that Mathis had been going to meetings with Reynolds and Vick. From a physical standpoint, Mathis is better than Reynolds. And going over the protection calls probably wouldn’t be a major issue. But there are two major red flags. One is that Mathis has never played center in the NFL (yes, that’s a big one). And the other is this: If you’re weakening left guard to potentially upgrade at center, then what’s really the point?

Right guard: Danny Watkins continues to be way too up-and-down in his second season, specifically in pass protection. Does he have his moments? Sure. Watkins did a good job pulling in front of a LeSean McCoy run last week, and I showed with the All-22 how he did a nice job on a 17-yard screen. But overall, just too many mistakes.

I know some are calling for him to be replaced, but Watkins doesn’t look any worse to me now than he did for much of last season. And the truth is, the Eagles don’t have a lot of options to replace him. Dunlap played a game at guard last season and held up well. But asking him to play there every week is a different story. Kelly played guard in the preseason, but it’s unlikely that the rookie would be able to step in and provide a significant upgrade. The Eagles signed Nate Menkin from the Texans’ practice squad, but he seems like more of a down-the-road option.

In other words, I think they stick with Watkins and hope that he improves.

Right tackle: Of all the positions, this is where the Eagles actually have some flexibility. Todd Herremans has been up-and-down this season. And you know he can play guard at a high level. But the only reason you move him inside is if you’re able to adequately replace him at right tackle. Would I consider Dunlap adequate? Probably. But I have concerns about him holding up for a 10-game stretch. If they really like Kelly, he could be an option too.

I’m not sure replacing Watkins with Herremans and Herremans with Dunlap/Kelly is a significant upgrade. If the Mathis-to-center move is an option, then perhaps Herremans moves to left guard. But that would mean three of the five spots would be occupied by new starters – probably too drastic a shake-up for Week 8 of the regular season.

I’d say it’s unlikely that Herremans gets moved back to guard at this point, but given the struggles of this group, my guess is all options are on the table for the final 10 games.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Even if he wants to, Andy Reid cannot replace Vick with Nick Foles. Tim explains why.

While we are well aware of the offensive line’s struggles, this week’s All-22 analysis shows that Vick left too many plays on the field Sunday.

Reid is getting slammed by the national media for his decision to fire Juan Castillo.

The link between Todd Bowles and Bill Parcells was formed during Bowles’ playing days.

What does the Castillo firing say about Reid? Tim takes a look.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Don Banks has the Eagles 13th in his power rankings:

Well, I’d say Andy Reid finally understands the urgency of the situation in Philly. It’s win-or-surrender-your-parking-space time. Firing a coordinator and benching a quarterback are two of the biggest cards an embattled head coach can play in midseason to try to save the ship from going down. Reid just did one of those, and looks ready to do the other any minute now.

Joe Banner was introduced as new CEO of the Cleveland Browns yesterday and was asked how his current situation compares to taking over the Eagles. Per the team’s Web site:

“There are a lot of analogies. You’re in a market with a fan base that’s just tremendously passionate and frankly, in running a franchise there’s nothing more valuable than being in a place where they care that much and there’s that much passion and interest. That’s very analogous to what I had in Philadelphia. The challenge is how do we take advantage of that and how do we reward that quite frankly, whether it’s a gameday experience, getting from your car to the stadium or buying a hot dog at the concession stand or how you feel when you walk out of the building based on how the team performed. We’re going to evaluate every single aspect of that and that’s again similar to Philadelphia. There will be some places where a little incremental improvement can be made and there will some places, frankly, where you’ll see dramatic changes, but it will take time.”

COMING UP

You should know by now that Birds 24/7 doesn’t believe in the bye week. We’ll have plenty of content to get you through the day.

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  • What Would Saracen Do?

    I strongly believe that the o-line is behind the majority of our offensive troubles, including the turnovers. Sometimes Vick is holding the ball too long, and there are times when he makes puzzling throws. I don’t want to take all the blame off of him. But from what I’ve seen, he’s getting pummeled multiple times each game, and sometimes does not even have enough time to complete a 3 step drop. The injuries to Kelce and Peters have devastated this oline to the point where I believe they are one of the worst in the league. I can only hope that they will improve from here, otherwise it’s going to be a long end of the season.

  • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

    Jason Peters, ladies and gentlemen. If anyone takes the time to watch Shady’s highlights from last year you might as well rename the video Jason Peters highlights. Dude was a beast, when he got out in front down field on Shady’s runs it was game over. He single handedly shut down team’s top pass rushers game in and game out. Best LT in football, without a doubt. I was hoping that when this happen we could even find someone mediocore. But it’s just been flat out terrible.

    Obviously it depends on a lot of circumstances, like where we are in the standings, but a Jason Peters at 75% I’m sure is better than any bums we have on this roster.

    • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

      Another thing to note is Suggs is hoping to play THIS WEEK after tearing his achilles. Now, I’m not an expert on these types of injuries whatsoever, and there’s a lot of factors that come into play.. Peters injured his a few months before Suggs, but obviously Suggs did not re-injure his like Peters did. But this all makes me very interested to see what develops in Peters return.

      • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

        The Eagles and Peters himself said he feels good and is walking fine. He’s doing a lot of pool rehab and rehab in general to strengthen it up. But don’t think he’s be coming back anytime soon, you don’t want to rush him back, not with that kind of injury and Oline guys use that Achillies like they do

      • What Would Saracen Do?

        I live in Baltimore, so I get a Ravens update pretty much every time I open my door. The fans are hoping that Suggs will play this week mostly due to the significant injuries suffered on the defensive side of the ball last week (Ladarius Webb and Ray Lewis out for the year. Ngata will play with a torn MCL), but the team is less optimistic. Suggs looked pretty hampered in practice yesterday by most accounts, and appeared to be favoring his surgically repaired leg during drills. He might be ready for some game action in 2-3 weeks, but I don’t know how much of a factor he will be.

        As for Peters, his reinjuring his Achilles reset the timetable for his return. He might be cleared to do physical activity near the end of the season, but who knows if 1) He will be in shape and productive enough to warrant an active roster spot 2) We will be playing in games that matter. I’d rather see him take his time to come back completely healthy and not risk another injury.

        • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

          I’d rather Eagles just sit him out till next year. i don’t want him to be prematurely rushed and possibly suffer a career ending reinjury. No thanks, will hope they at least come up with something serviceable

        • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

          I also think Suggs maybe should have waited till after bye week, then at least 2 weeks could’ve gone by. Think its a major injury to return from, hope he doesn’t reinjure it

    • fran35

      Amen. This whole mess is depressing, but it does make you appreciate how good Peters was last year. I actually saw Peters pancake JPP last year on a run sweep to his side and then Peters got out in front of Shady and smeared two defensive backs. He was gifted and just coming into his prime. I really hope he comes back close to where he was.

  • Johngiam

    Here is the problem. We are in mid season, and we run a specialized gimmicky offensive line system, that takes a long time for new players to adjust to. And that’s what I don’t like about rare alignments such as muddy scheme and the wide 9. Even if today you trade for the best lt in football, it would take him months to learn muddy system, because it’s very differ from all the blocking scheme other teams run. I have no clue wtf to do to fix this line mid season. I know we can’t get a starter right now, but they better trade for some depth, cause if someone else on that line gets hurt, we are seriously in trouble…

    • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

      agreed. I don’t think there’s much you can do midseason. Pretty much have to just keep moving current guys around and see what works best till at least till after season and draft/free agency. Also Peters will be back next year, but I think they just have to go with what they have

      • fran35

        Even though Peters is back next year, Mudd will be likely gone. Will we still run our goofy system with him gone?

        • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

          With Mudd gone, they maybe promote the offensive line assistant, forget his name, will have to look it up. he was coaching oline when Mudd was absent during OTA and part of TC

          • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

            Found it, Eugene Chung

        • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

          But I would like to see Castillo return as offensive Line coach. Some great lines under him

  • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

    I think moving Herremans would be an awful move, given that Vick is a left handed QB. This making a RT the more important than a LT as he should have more vision on the LT and the RT is his blindside

  • http://twitter.com/EaglesScout73 Brush

    Williams from Chicago was pretty bad at LT and RT, but he was pretty good as a LG, where he started most games, but they continued to try to get him to be that guy at T they needed. Changing systems with new OC didn’t help tho either. They also have a pretty bad line all the way across, so that may have played into his struggles, no continuity. Chicago reporters have already started calling Carimi a bust. He’s had an unfortunate knee injury, but wow, labeling him a bust. if anything, he’s from the offensive line factory known as Wisconsin. But I believe also bringing in Williams would be a crapshot, but anyone they bring in would have to get used to Mudd’s system, which is much different than any other teams system. Which is maybe why they should’ve just moved Castillo back to Oline, unless he didn’t want it. But some of our teams best olines have been coached by him

  • limodriver27

    No doubt the o-line is in shambles. Looking ahead, Mudd might be looking to get out due to health-afterall, we DID yank him out of retirement. His unique scheme makes it hard to get replacements on the field, which brings me to Vanderveld, who was here during camp, went to Buccs practice squad then came back here-to vegetate on our squad? Or did he get picked up by another and I missed it?

    • bigtimefan

      @ Limodriver27 Don’t worry about it, this whole staff will be gone after this year is over ( save maybe the strength coaches staff and the medical staff. ) Seriously how many free agents would want to come here and play in these to gimmick line schemes? I know money talks, but i’m just saying. Also how can you have a system of offensive line play that if you have a player go down and you need to bring a player in, they will take 3 – 4 weeks ( minimum ) before they can begin to help you because of the totally different, unorthodox style! This staff has been the ” GOLD STANDARD ” of arrogance since day one. Andy Reid turning defensive tackles into fullbacks, going into the season opener with NO punt returner ( see Greg Lewis fumble in home opener.) Do you remember Rory Seagrest, one the worst defensive line coaches ever, the arrogance of Andy Reid to put him as the special teams coach ( his first year as special teams coach the teams special teams ranked 31st in the league ) with ZERO nfl experience at any position or level ! Running a system that is totally predicated on throwing the ball and he has wide receivers that are not even average ( Greg Lewis, James Thrash and Todd Pinkston). Let’s face it, when Andy Reid lost the superior players that were already on the roster when he was hired ( i.e. Hugh Douglas, Brian Dawkins, Carlos Emmons, Troy Vincent, Al Harris, Ike Reese, Jeremiah Trotter, Tra Thomas, Charlie Garner, Duce Staley) and he lost his BETTER half Jim Johnson (RIP), this team has never been the same. Also a little know fact is that Andy Reid fired Sean Payton from the previous staff when he was hired in 1999 and replaced him with the Brad Childress. In fairness he did hire Jim Johnson, Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera, Steve Spagnola and Pat Shurmur. His coordinator staff now consists of : Marty Mornhinweg ( who chose to punt in overtime , when he lost the game as the head coach of his 5 wins and 27 losses ( in two years ) with the Detroit Lions ) Bobby April – the year before he was hired ( 2009 – Ted daisher was the special teams coach who was unceremoniously fired after one year. That year the special teams ranked 2nd in the league.) since then Bobby April has coached the team to rankings of : 2010 – 12th , 2011 – 17th , and currently are ranked at 27th in the league…..l think l see a trend here. Finally, Todd Bowles,( who is Andy’s best coordinator hire since he first hired his staff in 1999. ) the interim defensive coordinator since he fired Juan Castillio , ironically who was his worst hire ( as defensive coordinator – not offensive line coach ) since he hired his staff in 1999. The two most important areas of any NFL franchise are the player personnel department and the coaching staff ……which l feel( both ) areas have been on a considerable decline in the last 5 to 7 years, since the staff has lost Jim Johnson, Steve Spagnuolo, Pete Jenkins and John Harbaugh. Thanks for reading my venting, would be glad to here your feelings on my feelings and to read yours also.

      • Bite Mee

        I think you made some excellent points. I would throw in the fact that the eagles got cheap and would not give Trotter the money during the year that they had a good chance at the super bowl (remember who they got to replace him? Hint, the fastest 320 lb linebacker in the league). Also, the Eagles are always hugely under the salary cap and they always, consistently, have very weak backups. For the Eagles it is about putting asses in the seats and not about winning a super bowl.

      • limodriver27

        @limodriver2750-twitter or limodriver27@yahoo.com. let’s get into this further.

  • jabostick

    If Marty would adjust his play calling to better suit this line, I think the upside of being able to have line continuity is bigger than the downside of Marty not being able to run the ‘fake stretch draw roll Vick out 15 yards and throw it deep’ play.

    Of course, that is said with the requisite note that Vick and the O-line still need to tighten their game up. But I think it’s more reasonable to ask for more appropriate play calling and for the O-line to get more adequate and for Vick to regress back toward the mean, turnover-wise, than to shake things up and hope for different results (especially if Marty doesn’t change his approach).

    • Johngiam

      I would give anything to watch Marty play a game of madden and see his playcalling. he would get blown out by a 12 yr old…even in madden you cant become 1dimensional and pass everytime. I friggin computer knows that, y doesnt marty?

  • jOHNGIAM

    It might be time to shuffle the line around and see what Dennis Kelly can give yuo during the bye week. He is literally the only guy that you could theoretically throw in there that we havent thrown in yet. what else can you do but see if Dennis Kelly can plug a hole. luckikly herremans is flexable enough to move around, so see where Dennis can play best, and shuffle the deck around him. Danny watkins despises howard Mudd. Life lesson to howard Mudd: likeing the size of a players wrists is NOT a good enough reason to draft him in the 1st round!!!!

    • bigtimefan

      @b303d6044918db01ce775678e263ee3e:disqus , I couldn’t agree more, l could not believe they drafted this guy. My personal opinion is as much as anything else poor drafting and lack of adequate depth are the problem on this team. Just curious though, l am really curious how you can make those statements about why Mudd wanted to draft Watkins ( i.e. wrists ? ), and also, the fact that Watkins ” Hates ” Howard Mudd. I would love to get your answer on that, l don’t doubt it , but just curious if that’s your guess or is it factual? Thanks.

      • Johngiam

        lol actually both factual! Mudd is always screamng n watkins face… I have heard insiders saY that word around novacare is he hates mudd. Read an interview wit mudd when we drafted danny, Mudd talked about what a bg strong guy he is, and was gushing over his giant wrists

        • Bite Mee

          thick wrist and thick ankles

  • Bite Mee

    When you think of the top pass protecting tackles in the league, how long is it before the name Winston Justice
    springs to mind? It’s gone largely unnoticed but in his 173 pass blocks
    he’s given up just two hurries…. according to profootballfocus.com. Howard Mudd needs to be replaced. 6 or 7 blockers and only 4 rushing and somebody still comes through unblocked.WTF coach? Plus you have a system that nobody else uses so getting replacements is going to be tough. Also if the system was so great how come, in a copycat league, nobody else is using it?

  • Bite Mee

    According to me Howard Mudd sucks as a O-line coach.
    According to profootballfocus.com…
    “Winston Justice, OT, Indianapolis Colts (1 Year, $1.5 Million)
    Known for being embarrassed by Osi Umenyiora on national TV in his first NFL start, Justice’s years in Philadelphia included stretches of dominance spoiled by longer stretches in the training room. Indianapolis acquired Justice by merely swapping sixth-round picks with the Eagles (it’s not known whether the Colts included a bag of balls in the deal). However, the change of scenery has done wonders for the tackle (+8.2). He’s surrendered just two QB pressures all season en route to a 99.1 Pass Block Efficiency.” Howard Mudd should be fired. How come he couldn’t bring out the best in Justice? Him being such a great coach and all. He wanted Watkins (big wrist and ankles). He (Mudd) is responsible when there are 6 or 7 blockers and only 4 rushers and one of the rushers comes free unblocked. Plus what about replacement players? First thing people say is Oh he is not familiar with Mudd’s weirdo system and it will take time. Why go with a system that nobody else is using and it makes it harder to find replacements. Jason was really good before Mudd showed up. Don’t get it twisted and say the o-line got better because of Mudd.