Eagles Wake-Up Call: OL Training Camp Preview

Each day this week, we’ll take a look at a different position group as we count down to training camp.

What’s changed?

Howard Mudd is out, and Jeff Stoutland is in. The new offensive line coach is hoping this group can avoid the injuries that helped turn 2012 into a disaster.

According to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, no offensive line in the NFL over the last 11 years suffered more devastating injuries than last year’s Eagles. Jason Peters was lost in the spring, while Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans also went down with season-ending injuries in Weeks 2 and 9, respectively.

Peters and Herremans were full participants during OTAs and mini-camp. Kelce is on track to be full-go for training camp.

With the pieces around him going down week after week, Evan Mathis turned in what was probably his best season as a pro in 2012 and has been the Eagles’ most consistent/durable offensive lineman during the past two seasons.

And finally, the Birds added Lane Johnson with the No. 4 overall pick to take over at right tackle.

The pressing question: How good will Johnson be as a rookie?

The words Chip Kelly used when talking about Johnson back in April were raw and upside.

Historically, those terms haven’t described players ready to step in and contribute right away at a high level.

Johnson has been playing football his whole life, but he was a quarterback for a long time, before getting a shot at tight end and defensive end at Oklahoma. In all, he has two full seasons of offensive line play under his belt – one at right tackle, one at left tackle.

There would seem to be a decent chance that Johnson might struggle as a rookie, before eventually turning into a really good player. But if something clicks right away, and Stoutland figures out how to take advantage of his athleticism, the Eagles have a chance to field one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

Don’t be surprised if…

Danny Watkins fails to start a game all season. The 2011 first-round pick started six games in 2012 before suffering a “chronic” ankle injury. Even when he was healthy, he lost his spot to journeyman Jake Scott.

The Eagles don’t have a lot of line depth, and Watkins should make the team, but he’s unlikely to play a prominent role. Herremans has slid from right tackle to right guard, and Mathis has the left guard spot locked down. In a recent interview with Mike Kaye of Bleeding Green Nation, Mathis was asked for an under-the-radar lineman to keep an eye on.

Allen Barbre is, at the very least, a starting caliber offensive guard,” he said. “If we were to lose a guard to injury, I’d be totally confident with him filling in.”

Barbre saw some first-team reps during the spring, and clearly, he’s made an impression with teammates. If the coaches prefer Barbre to Watkins, the 2011 first-round pick could be a healthy scratch on gamedays to start the season.

Roster battles to watch

If everyone’s healthy, the starters are pretty much set: Peters (LT), Mathis (LG), Kelce (C), Herremans (RG), Johnson (RT).

But like last year, depth is a major question. At tackle, Dennis Kelly is on track to be the first backup, and with Herremans always an option to move back outside, the Eagles have some flexibility there. Beyond Kelly, there are a bunch of unknowns: Matt Kopa, Ed Wang, Nic Purcell and Matt Tobin. The newest Eagle, Michael Bamiro, will have a chance to land one of the last spots on the roster.

At guard, Watkins and Barbre seem like the favorites to land backup jobs. But others like Nate Menkin, Matt Tennant and Julian Vandervelde have a chance to compete for spots.

At backup center, the options are Tennant, Dallas Reynolds and Kyle Quinn.

WHAT YOU MISSED

I offered five thoughts on the Eagles’ QB situation.

Here’s our linebacker training camp preview.

And more on Bamiro, the 6-8 offensive tackle the team is expected to sign today.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

In an Allentown Morning Call piece, Jimmy Kempski says he thinks Nick Foles has the edge over Michael Vick:

The issue for Michael Vick, however, is that he is coming off two turnover-filled seasons. Not helping matters is that he was outplayed by Nick Foles in OTAs and minicamp. Foles got the ball out quicker than Vick, was generally more accurate, and is putting receivers in a better position to get yards after the catch.

Tra Thomas talked to the Daily News’ Les Bowen about Bamiro:

“I think he’s a solid athlete, someone that kind of fell through the cracks,” Thomas said Tuesday. “He has large hands, he bends well. We worked on both right and left stances; he’s coachable.”

COMING UP

More Kelly leftovers coming up.

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  • airpope

    Wow, Watkins done already, thanks Andy, you truly are smarter than everyone else!

    • GiveMeABreak

      Aren’t you forgetting someone in your criticism? Who was the GM when we picked this stiff?

      • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

        The ghost of Banner

  • aub32

    Ugh. Knowing that we spent a 1st round pick on a guard is bad enough but a guard who can’t even get on the field while still under his rookie deal. What a waste.

  • cliff henny

    that vandervelde name has been hanging on the cut line for what seems like 4 or 5 years now. he seems to just have enough talent to latch onto back end of the roster. but am happy with those 6 or 7 guys you named. want some turnover, but also dont want a set roster like reid seemed to have. with reid, felt like i knew 90% of depth chart before OTAs even ended.

  • cliff henny

    taking your gf or wife to eagles game will be like the south park ‘broadway bro-down’ episode.

  • Chris

    We could go another direction with the wang-chung combo as well, although it’s not nearly as enjoyable. It does add another dimension, however.

  • EaglePete

    haha awesome, wang chung too funny, well done

  • knighn

    Depends on how you define “success”. Sadly, Johnson passed in July 2009. The Eagles went 11-5 in the following 2009 season and lost badly in the playoffs (34-14). It might be hard to believe from the score, but the offense was an even bigger problem than the defense in that game. In 2010, the Eagles went 10-6 and lost to the eventual champions in the playoffs 21-16. Giving up 21 points to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a playoff game hardly appears to be an indictment of the Defense. The greater problem in that game was the offense and the STs.

    The wheels started to fall off of the bus in 2011 when Andy Reid fired Sean McDermott and named O-line coach Juan Castillo the Defensive coordinator. Whether or not anyone said it out loud, I think Reid seriously lost the confidence of much of his team at that point, including players on Offense. Then Reid’s team REALLY lost confidence in him AFTER he fired Juan Castillo after a 3-3 start in 2012. Believe it or not: the Defense performed considerably better in the 6 games that Castillo coached in 2012 versus the 10 games after Castillo was fired.

    2012 with Castillo:
    6 games
    Points allowed per game(avg.): fewer than 21
    Games defense allowed under 20 points: 3
    Games defense allowed 27 points or more: 1
    —-
    2012 Without Castillo:
    10 games
    Points allowed per game(avg.): 32.9(WTF!?)
    Games defense allowed under 20 points: 0(!)
    Games defense allowed 27 points or more: 9(!!!)
    —-
    The 2012 offense, meanwhile, was anemic, averaging fewer than 18 points per game!!

    So, what’s the conclusion here? Jim Johnson was a HUGE part in Reid’s success and there’s no denying that. Reid could have done much better for himself after Johnson if he would have just made somewhat intelligent choices for Defensive Coordinators, and if Reid & Co did a considerably better job building the O-line & depth. It will be interesting to see how Reid does in KC.

  • aub32

    He hasn’t been around nearly that long. He came in with Kelce and Watkins. However, I don’t think he will ever get the hang of snapping the ball.

  • cliff henny

    you’ll like this…caught espn’s chris mortenson at lunch, he was doing a segment on 5 things to watch in upcoming nfl season. one was eagles and kelly. at end, he also mentioned qb competition and said by all accounts foles had better off-season and is leader in many eyes. not that it’s a shock to us, but that’s a pretty big leap forward by national media. past 6 months barely mentioned foles, now have mort claiming he’s clubhouse leader. Mort isnt too bad, as espn guys go.