Eagles Wake-Up Call: The State Of the O-Line
On the final day of Eagles minicamp, veteran Todd Herremans was asked if he thought it was realistic for the team to start the same five offensive linemen every game like it did last year.
“Yeah, I think it’s very realistic,” Herremans said. “I know it only happened one other time since I’ve been here, but like I was saying earlier, the way that we take care of our bodies and stuff, I think we were very limited with guys in the training room last year. I don’t think it was a coincidence.”
But if yesterday’s news (T-Mac has the latest here) about Lane Johnson holds up, there will be no repeat performance for all 16 games.
Johnson missing the first four weeks would certainly be a blow for a team looking to build on its offensive success from a year ago. If Allen Barbre can step in and perform adequately, it might not be a devastating blow. But Johnson is only 24 and an ascending player. Some of the mental mistakes he made last year were masked because of his freakish athleticism. And his absence leads to some bigger questions for Chip Kelly and company.
Most notably: What happens if someone else goes down? Assuming Barbre steps in at right tackle (and that’s the most likely scenario), the Eagles will go into the season with four of five starters north of 30-years-old. The team signed Barbre to an extension because he can play either guard or tackle. But losing another starter between now and Week 4 would be devastating. As we noted yesterday, depth up front is a serious issue.
Suddenly, guys like Dennis Kelly, Michael Bamiro and Matt Tobin have added value. Kelly and Bamiro practiced at both guard and tackle in the spring. As Kelly likes to say, they could now be just one chinstrap away from getting on the field. Tobin backed up Jason Peters in the spring at left tackle. The same can probably also be said for him.
And Kelly will face a new challenge when players return later this month. The head coach is obsessed about getting enough reps during practice. But when training camp starts, will Johnson line up with the first team? Or will Barbre mix in? There’s no denying that cohesiveness on the offensive line is critical, and some within the organization have pointed out that it took Johnson and Herremans a little while to get on the same page last year. They were playing together for the first time, and that’s part of the reason why many of the Eagles’ issues in protection came on the right side.
Players and coaches joked last month about how it had been a drama-free spring after the DeSean Jackson release. But assuming the Johnson suspension holds up, the Eagles have their first real obstacle of the 2014 season.
WHAT YOU MISSED
A league spokesman tells T-Mac no suspension has been handed down yet, but it could very well be coming.
I took a stab at projecting the Eagles depth chart on offense.
“When that monster comes along and you’re in a position to acquire him, you acquire him.” McManus with three leftovers from Billy Davis.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly suggests Rob Bironas could be an option to replace Alex Henery:
There’s also the chance that Henery legs out Spear in the competition but is still replaced by a free agent. One name to watch: Rod Bironas. The veteran kicker was released in March by Tennessee after a pretty good 2014 season, just not good enough to cost $2.875 million against the Titans’ cap along with collecting a $250,000 roster bonus.
Bironas, a 2007 Pro Bowler and All Pro, made 25 of his 29 attempts last year, including 7 of 10 from at least 40 yards. The problem is, the 31-year-old Bironas might be turning into an older version of Henery. His touchback rate has dipped three straight years. He went from 50 percent in 2012 to 38.6 in 2013, a steep dropoff. There’s a good chance that cutting Henery and replacing him with Bironas doesn’t solve the kickoff issue, although it could give the Eagles more reliability on field-goal attempts.
Bob Brookover of The Inquirer thinks the Eagles’ defense can improve because of the 2012 draft class:
It’s important to remember, of course, that Boykin, Kendricks, and the rest of the defense had to learn a new system last year. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis introduced a 3-4 defense, and Kendricks said it wasn’t until the middle of last season that everything started to click for him individually and for the defense as a whole.
“This may not run well with a whole lot of people, but I consider last year my first year, just personally,” Kendricks said. “My first year wasn’t really one to remember in terms of personal achievements. Even though I had a great time with the whole experience . . . it wasn’t until the second year that I really had fun and felt like I made a difference with my play. I felt like I did what I got drafted to do.”
We’ll take a stab at projecting the depth chart on defense.