Encouraging Signs For Eagles’ Offensive Line

Antonio Dixon is used to the pace and structure of the Eagles’ 11-on-11 team drills. He’s been participating in them all spring and knows what’s expected.

Jason Kelce, on the other hand, had been sitting out that portion of practice as he continued to recover from a torn ACL. But Tuesday, for the first time, Kelce lined up as the Eagles’ starting center, and he decided to go all out, mixing it up with Dixon on the very first snap.

“I think I was probably going a little bit harder than I should have in OTAs, and Antonio didn’t like it so we kind of got in a scuffle,” Kelce said with a laugh. “But it’s all good. We’ll be friends when we go back in there.”

In many ways, Tuesday provided the most encouraging sign the Eagles have seen all offseason: the (likely) first-team offensive line on the field together. To Kelce’s right were Todd Herremans and first-round pick Lane Johnson. To his left were Evan Mathis and Jason Peters.

Mathis had missed time as he recovered from offseason ankle surgery. Peters, who is recovering from an Achilles’ injury, missed last week because of a personal issue, but was back on the field Tuesday. The five-time Pro Bowler has drawn overwhelmingly positive reviews from coaches and teammates. He’s sounded confident all offseason, and that continued yesterday.

“Come check me out on Sunday, preseason games. You’ll see if I’m back,” Peters said, via the Daily News. “You be the judge. I know y’all always writing stuff about different stuff, but you be the judge of it. I’m gonna go out there and play as hard as I can. I’m not gonna win all the battles, but I’m gonna win most of ’em.”

Peters has been a full participant all spring, while Kelce and Mathis were eased back in on Tuesday.

Players returning from knee injuries sometimes have to battle an instinct of hesitancy. Even though the pads weren’t on, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Kelce.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t notice it when I’m out there,” he said. “I more notice it when I’m doing individuals or things that are a little bit slower paced. When I’m going full speed, everything happens so fast, you don’t really have time to [think], ‘What’s my knee feel like?'”

“It’s a very good feeling when you haven’t played football against a defensive player in eight months. …To know that you’re that much closer, to know that your knee is still feeling great when you’re doing stuff like that, it feels awesome. It’s a very frustrating feeling to finish that season the way it went and also to just be in the rehab room and the training room for eight months.”

Kelce, Herremans, Peters and Mathis are all coming off of injuries. And Johnson will have to prove he can be a quick learner as a rookie.

But on paper, the offensive line has a chance to return to being a strength of this football team, like it was in 2011.

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