This week, we’ll offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up was quarterback. We covered running backs Tuesday, wide receivers Wednesday and tight ends yesterday. Now onto the offensive line.
PRESSING QUESTION: Will the Eagles go into 2014 with the same five starting offensive linemen?
Kapadia: This is a tough one, but ultimately I’ll say yes.
I’m confident that four of the five – Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson – will be the same. The key player to keep an eye on is Todd Herremans.
The nine-year veteran is 31 and coming off an up-and-down season. He got the job done in the run game, but along with Johnson, was inconsistent in pass protection.
Looking at Herremans’ contract, the Eagles don’t get much cap relief by parting ways with him. The guess here is that they try to squeeze one more year out of the right guard.
Overall, the Eagles had the best rushing attack in the NFL, and they were also the best downfield passing team. A key factor was that they started the same five offensive linemen in all 16 games. Barring offseason injuries, I think the same five will once again be on the field in Week 1 of 2014.
McManus: I believe it will be the same starting five.
There’s a case to be made that Herremans will be better this upcoming season than he was last year. Rehab from his foot injury limited the amount of strength training he could do. He couldn’t anchor like he wanted to early in the season, which had something to do with his struggles. He slowly regained power in the leg and got better as the year went on.
I feel like this unit was good, not great, in 2013. Peters received a bunch of accolades once again but I think a lot of that was off reputation. We’ve come to expect dominance from the left tackle, and he did not deliver at that level consistently. But considering he, Herremans and Kelce were all coming off major injuries, the fact that this group played all 16 regular-season games together and performed at a pretty high level makes it a successful campaign.
PRIORITY SCALE: FROM 1 TO 5
* 1 indicates there is no need at all to address the position in free agency or the draft. 5 means it’s of the highest priority that the Eagles focus on the position in the coming months.
Kapadia: I’m going with a three. That might seem to clash with what I wrote in the first part, but the Eagles need to add some young bodies on the offensive line.
It’s tough to gauge what they think of backups like Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin and Michael Bamiro since those guys haven’t played much. But with Peters, Mathis and Herremans all over 30, getting younger should be a priority.
The Eagles envision Johnson taking over for Peters at left tackle down the road. But that means they need to keep their eyes open for a right tackle. And they also could be on the lookout for someone to push Herremans at right guard. Free agency could be an option, but more likely, the Eagles will look to the draft for some O-Line talent.
McManus: I’m going with a three as well.
While most of the immediate needs lie on the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles will have to replenish the O-line before long. Peters and Mathis are 32. Herremans is 31. Compared to the rest of the roster, it’s an old group.
When thinking about the draft, the mind immediately goes to positions like safety, outside linebacker, receiver. But don’t forget about offensive line. Kelly knows how critical the O-line is to the build, and it’s about time to restock.