Eagles Wake-Up Call: O-Line Training Camp Preview
Leading up to training camp on July 25, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We have already covered the defensive line, quarterbacks, outside linebackers, running backs, inside linebackers, cornerbacks, wide receivers and safeties. Now it’s on to the offensive line.
The pressing question: How much will the Lane Johnson suspension hurt the Eagles?
Let’s put it this way. In terms of devastation level, losing LeSean McCoy would be a 10. Losing Patrick Chung last year would have been a 1. I’ll put the Johnson suspension at a 6.5.
Offensively, losing McCoy or Nick Foles would fall into the “season changer” category. Losing Jason Kelce would hurt a lot too, given that the Eagles don’t really have an adequate replacement (at least not a proven one). Jason Peters or Evan Mathis missing time would mean definite downgrades. After that, there’s Johnson and a few others.
Allen Barbre will likely step in at right tackle for the first four games. Judging him off an 86-snap sample size from 2013 is unfair, but it’s all we have to go off of. And Barbre looked like a capable backup. He doesn’t have the upside of Johnson, who some (OK, me) thought could take a serious leap forward this season. But Barbre isn’t going to kill the Eagles either.
What might be more interesting is how Johnson plays when he finally returns. Remember, after the final preseason game, he’s banned from the facility for a month. That means he can’t sit in on film sessions, meetings, etc. For someone who only played offensive line for two years in college and one year in the NFL, that could be huge.
When the Eagles cut down to 53, five of the spots will be accounted for: Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Todd Herremans and Barbre (Johnson won’t take up a roster space until he returns from suspension). But beyond that, spots are up for grabs.
At tackle, guys like Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly and Michael Bamiro will battle it out. David Molk and Julian Vandervelde will compete for the backup center spot.
Others on the roster will have to really open some eyes in the summer to get a shot. And it’s entirely possible that the Eagles add a body or two before Week 1.
One thing I think
I know many of you are going to rip me for bringing up DeSean Jackson again – especially in a post about the offensive line. But as you know by now, we here at Birds 24/7 try to tell it like it is. And that means we must revisit a conversation we’ve had previously about resource allocation.
The Eagles released Jackson and drafted Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Would they have selected both guys if Jackson were still on the roster? Highly unlikely.
That’s important because Howie Roseman made a point after the draft of saying that the run on offensive linemen in the third round was unexpected, and he was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to grab a guy to bolster the unit up front. The Eagles will, in all likelihood, start the season with four of five starters on the plus side of 30. This is a spot they need to get younger at, but they were unable to do so this offseason.
Maybe that won’t be an issue until 2015 or even beyond, but there’s a chance the age on the O-Line could become a storyline as early as this season.
WHAT YOU MISSED
McManus has details on the Johnson suspension.
A snippet from my Eagles Almanac piece: Coaches and players walk us through one of the defense’s most common calls, the Cover 3.
In our latest training camp preview, T-Mac takes a look at Malcolm Jenkins and the safeties.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com takes a look back at Nick Foles’ college career:
Foles, then just 18 years old, had just finished his freshman year at Michigan State. He redshirted that football season — he got into one game against Alabama-Birmingham and threw eight passes — and with current Redskin Kirk Cousins and Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol set to battle for the Spartans’ starting quarterback job, Foles just didn’t have a reason to stay in East Lansing.
He loved Michigan State, but he knew there was a very good chance his football career would never materialize if he stayed.
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com takes a shot at projecting the Eagles’ 53-man roster:
Maclin, Cooper, Matthews, and Huff are locks. Beyond that, there will be a bunch of receivers vying for what I believe will be two final spots. The most glaring omission here is Arrelious Benn, who actually played well in OTAs and minicamp. The biggest thing working against Benn is his durability issues. If you’re a backup, first and foremost, you have to be able to play special teams. Secondly, the coaching staff needs to know that you will be ready to go if the team needs you to fill in on the regular offense/defense. You don’t want to have to constantly deal with a player on the back end of your roster who can’t stay healthy enough to play specials or fill in when needed. Therefore, with four locks already in place at the wide receiver position, I think that Benn will have to thoroughly out-play Smith and Maehl to win a job. If it’s close, I believe both Smith and Maehl will win those last two spots.
And no, I’m not yet on the Ifeanyi Momah bandwagon, although he does look markedly improved from last year. Damaris Johnson has become something of an afterthought.
T-Mac will hit you with his weekly mailbag. And could the 90-man roster rating system return for a second year? We’ll check in with our sources.
Josh Paunil contributed to this post.