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.

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

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