The State Of the Eagles’ Offensive Line

Todd Herremans says he has not watched the draft since 2005. That was the year the Eagles selected him in the fourth round out of Saginaw Valley State.

But next Thursday could affect the ninth-year pro. After moving to right tackle before the 2011 season, Herremans could be asked to slide back inside to guard, particularly if the Eagles use a first-round pick on someone like Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher or Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson.

So surely Herremans will be tuning in this year, right?

“I’m sure I’ll see it on Twitter,” he said.

“It’s always been a possibility ever since I’ve been here, pretty much, so I just go about my day-to-day business.”

Herremans has maintained all offseason that he would have no problem making the position switch and just wants to get the team’s five best options on the field.

The offensive line is now under the direction of Jeff Stoutland. For players like Herremans and Jason Peters, it’s their third position coach in four seasons.

Asked to compare Stoutland’s teaching style to Howard Mudd’s, Herremans said, “He works [us] a little harder. He’s a little louder. He’s intense. You can tell that he’s a college coach, kind of in your face. He’s kind of got one tone, and that’s loud. But it’s positive. He’s not dog-cussing any of us or anything like that.”

“Stoutland, he’s got an answer for everything,” added Evan Mathis. “He has many tools. It’s not one way to do things on most plays. You have options. And usually those options rely on you game-planning who you’re playing, the techniques that they’re going to be using, so you can use your different tools in those scenarios.

“But as far as coaching style, he’s verbal, he’s outspoken. I think he’s a good communicator. He’s loud, he’s not out there bashing anybody. He’s not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings. He’s a great coach.”

Like the rest of the team, the offensive line is looking to maximize reps during every practice, a stark change from the past.

“When we were in individual [portion of practice] with Howard, Howard was in the school of thought of where if you did a rep and you did it right, lock that in and don’t do another one,” Herremans said. “Stoutland’s like what Juan was. He’s going to have you rep’d out so that it becomes like you don’t even have to think about it.”

Expectations are high for the offensive line. The unit was a strength in 2011, but suffered devastating injuries, which highlighted a lack of depth last year. Even though Jason Kelce was not a full practice participant this week, four of the five spotsare currently claimed.

Right guard, however, is up in the air. Danny Watkins is penciled in there for now, but he’s a giant question mark, and the draft is likely to shape the team’s plans.

“I expected big things from us last year, and it was just terrible to see everybody go down one-by-one,” Mathis said. “Going into this season right now, it’s looking like we’re all going to be healthy, and I expect a lot of us. I expect the offensive line to be able to carry the team on their back. Jason Peters, I think he could have come back late last season if we needed him to, which put him well ahead of schedule for this mini-camp, and he’s out there just in his pure form, looking really good. It’s good to have him back out there. It’s good to have all the guys back, it really is.”

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For Eagles, Roseman, Tackle Likely Safest Bet

They don’t always hit, but they hit pretty often. And when they do, they hit big.

There have been 10 offensive tackles selected with a top-five pick since 2001. Six turned into Pro Bowlers. And combined, those six have been named to the Pro Bowl a total of 18 times.

This is how it breaks down:

Year
Name
Overall Pick
Number of Pro Bowls
2001Leonard Davis2nd3
2002Mike Williams 4th0
2003None----
2004Robert Gallery2nd0
2005None----
2006D'Brickashaw Ferguson4th3
2007 Joe Thomas 3rd6
2007Levi Brown5th0
2008Jake Long1st4
2009Jason Smith2nd0
2010Trent Williams4th1
2011None----
2012Matt Kalil 4th1

Howie Roseman says there is a reason why the return rate is so high.

“I think it’s hard to find really big men who can move, so when you get those guys, they’re very clear,” the Eagles general manager said on Monday. “It’s not like you’re projecting as much. When you talk about different positions, there’s a projection in the NFL because they’re not doing the same things as they’re doing in college. When you’re in the college game, and you’re an offensive lineman, you’re doing all the same things you’re going to have to do in the NFL game, so maybe the projection’s a little easier.”

Indeed, the 2012 Pro Bowl roster supports the notion that much of the standout talent is found early. Of the nine tackles on the respective teams, five were top-12 picks and seven were first-rounders.

This is considered a particularly strong tackle class, especially early in the draft. Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher could both be taken in the top 5, and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson may very well be plucked just a short time later. The Eagles, holding the No. 4 pick, sit right in the middle of it all.

“The common denominator is length, athleticism, toughness and intelligence,” said Roseman of the top three tackles. “When you’re evaluating offensive linemen, all those things are apparent in those offensive linemen, as well as other offensive linemen in this draft.”

Taking an offensive lineman in the first round is not always the right move, of course. It was just two years ago that the Eagles used the 23rd pick on guard Danny Watkins, who lost his job last year and is dangerously close to being deemed a bust. Roseman was asked about the Baylor product Monday.

“We’re really encouraged by Danny. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. He’s really energized, literally, to come in and get somewhat of a fresh start. That’s how he looks at it. He’s been here in the offseason program. In fact, he got married on a Saturday because when you have a veteran coach you don’t start your offseason program till today. So he had set his wedding date. He drove in from Texas. He drove by himself. Didn’t take the honeymoon. Came to be here on time for the first day of the offseason programs. He’s got a great opportunity here to get a fresh start and we told him, just go out and focus on your job. Don’t worry about anything that happened in the past.”

Watkins will be up against it, though, particularly if the Eagles take a tackle at No.4 and kick Todd Herremans inside.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Revisiting the 2011 Draft

Most analysts agree that it takes three years to properly judge a draft class.

But in the case of the Eagles’ 2011 picks, we might only need two.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com recently re-picked the first round, knowing what we know now. Instead of Danny Watkins at No. 23, he has the Eagles taking cornerback Jimmy Smith:

The Eagles could avoid the failed “Dream Team” experiment by a selecting a Nnamdi Asomugha-like corner in this do-over. Smith is the long, rangy press corner needed to take on the likes of Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon and Victor Cruz in the NFC East.

Smith was originally taken four spots after Watkins. He has only five starts in two seasons, but played a significant amount of snaps for the Ravens’ Super Bowl squad last year,

Watkins, meanwhile, enters his third NFL season not knowing if he has a future with the team that drafted him.

He was inconsistent in 12 games as a rookie before being sidelined with what Andy Reid deemed a “chronic” ankle injury after six starts in 2012. When Watkins got healthy again, his spot had been taken by 31-year-old Jake Scott. Now he’ll try to get a fresh start with Chip Kelly and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, but nothing is guaranteed.

The miscues from the 2011 draft extend well beyond the 28-year-old guard. The Eagles continue to look for safety help after missing badly on Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round. And they added a pair of corners in free agency, partly because Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick, has yet to show he’s worthy of getting a shot to start.

The players remaining from that class are Watkins, Marsh, Alex Henery, Dion Lewis, Casey Matthews, Julian Vandervelde and Jason Kelce.

Henery will continue to be the team’s kicker, and Kelce figures to have a bright future if he can recover from last year’s knee injury. But everyone else in the group will be fighting for a roster spot.

Earlier this offseason, Jeffrey Lurie took Howie Roseman off the hook for that draft, indirectly pointing the blame at Joe Banner and Andy Reid. But it’s evident that many of the holes the team went into the offseason with (right guard, safety, cornerback) can be traced in part back to misses during the 2011 draft.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Here are three leftovers: DeSean Jackson on tempo, Brandon Graham on sports science and Jason Peters on getting a playoff win.

T-Mac rounds up the latest draft buzz.

The Eagles have hosted Darius Slay, the fastest cornerback in the draft, for an official visit.

They have also worked out Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson.

EJ Manuel delivers his latest draft diary.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Mike Mayock tells Paul Domowitch of the Daily News that Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce is a second-round pick:

“He’s going to end up going in the second round. There were some questions about him off the field and some durability issues. But I think he’s addressed a lot of that. Most people have bought into him. The tape is pretty darn good. This kid can go deep. He catches the football. He’s really athletic. And he’ll also compete in the blocking.”

In an Allentown Morning Call piece, Jimmy Kempski takes a look at Lane Johnson as an option for the Eagles:

Johnson played RT at Oklahoma in 2011, then moved to LT in 2012. If the Eagles were to draft him, Johnson would fit in well with how the Eagles might use him. The idea would be for Johnson to slide right in at RT from Day 1, while Todd Herremans would move to RG.

COMING UP

We’re 17 days away from the draft. Plenty to get to today and this week.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: The State Of the Offensive Line

One of the more intriguing aspects of free agency for the Eagles might have been a move they didn’t make.

On the first day of the new league year, the Birds were linked to right tackle Jake Long. Eventually, Long ended up signing a four-year, $34 million deal with the Rams that includes up to $20 million in guaranteed money if he stays healthy.

The Eagles also expressed interested in right tackle Eric Winston once he was cut by the Chiefs. Les Bowen of the Daily News reports that the team has a number it’s willing to sign Winston at, and a deal is still possible, depending on what he gets offered elsewhere.

So what does all this mean for the current players on the roster?

Football Outsiders tracks a stat called Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) Here’s their definition:

Measurement of the cost of injuries, both in terms of missed games and games where players were not able to play to their full potential. Estimates a number of games based on whether players are listed as Probable, Questionable, Doubtful, or Out.

In other words, it measures how badly teams were hurt by injuries compared to others around the league. We know Jason Peters missed the entire season, Todd Herremans missed eight games and Jason Kelce missed 14. But the metric shows just how devastating those injuries were.

The Eagles’ offensive line AGL was 42.6; that’s the highest number for a team since the site started tracking the stat 11 years ago.

The bad news is those injuries helped pave the way for a 4-12 season. The good news is it’s reasonable to expect improved health in 2013. Herremans told the Wilmington News-Journal recently that he doesn’t anticipate missing any offseason activities as he recovers from an ankle/foot injury. He had missed just five games the previous six seasons.

Jason Kelce has been rehabbing a torn ACL all offseason. He suffered his injury in the second game of the season and had surgery in October. And by all accounts, Jason Peters is doing well after injuring (and then re-injuring) his Achilles’.

Going forward, the two areas in need of an upgrade are right guard and depth. The Eagles are unlikely to go into the spring projecting Danny Watkins as a starter. If the former first-round pick surprises, great. But the team can’t be counting on that at this point.

The idea of moving Herremans back inside seems to definitely be in play, given the team’s interest in Long. Perhaps they’ll still sign a right tackle, or more likely, they could take one with the No. 4 pick (Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher).

The other option would be to sign or draft a starting-caliber right guard and keep Herremans at tackle.

And finally, the team needs to address depth. The Eagle have bodies: Dennis Kelly, Matt Kopa, Nate Menkin, Matt Tennant, Dallas Reynolds – but they’ll all be expected to compete for roster spots in 2013.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles were awarded a seventh-round compensatory pick. T-Mac has the breakdown of all their selections.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie told McManus that Nick Foles is going to have a great opportunity to compete.

Prior to going to West Virginia to see Geno Smith, Lurie had not attended a private workout since 1999 when he watched Donovan McNabb.

Chip Kelly’s history of using a rotation on defense helps explain the Connor Barwin signing.

Who will the Eagles take with the No. 4 pick? Here’s your mock draft roundup.

And finally, an All-22 breakdown of new wide receiver Arrelious Benn.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Peter King called the James Casey signing the second-best deal of free agency:

“With coach [Chip] Kelly coming in here, I thought it was a great fit for me,” Casey said upon signing. Truest words of the week. Recruited to Rice as a quarterback, Casey became an all-purpose back and tight end, and played numerous special teams for Houston. The way Kelly will use Casey (52 catches, 11.3 yards per catch in 969 snaps in Houston over the past two years) is the way the Patriots use their tight ends, and the way San Francisco used Delanie Walker last year: everywhere.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com looks at the Eagles’ QB situation:

But having seen the inconsistent turnover-prone, injury-prone Vick too much over the past two years, we have no choice but to cast him into the “question mark” category. Kelly can dream and scheme and imagine all that Vick can do with the help of his fresh offensive concepts, but he can’t be sure Vick will be able to run the offense responsibly, make the right decisions under fire, protect the ball or keep himself from getting hurt. No one can. That’s who Vick is, and that’s what you accept when you take on Vick as your starting quarterback.

This isn’t news to Kelly, and that’s why you’re starting to hear rumblings about the Eagles poking around West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who could be theirs for the taking with the No. 4 pick in the draft.

COMING UP

T-Mac will have all aspects of the owners’ meetings in Phoenix covered, plus some free agency and draft nuggets.

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Offseason Primer: Eagles Offensive Line

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position, player-by-player look at the Eagles’ roster. Today, we break down the offensive line. If you missed yesterday’s post on the wide receivers, click here.

YEAR IN REVIEW

Jason Kelce – Coming off a promising rookie campaign, Kelce suffered a knee injury in the second game of the season against the Ravens. Considering his game is based on his athleticism, we’ll have to monitor his rehab progress in the spring and summer. But barring any major setbacks, pencil Kelce in as the starting center in 2013.

Evan Mathis – He didn’t make the Pro Bowl, but the veteran left guard turned in the best season of his career. That’s impressive, considering he was playing with a rotating cast of characters next to him at center and left tackle. Mathis was the only Eagles offensive lineman to start every game last season. He played at a high level and will continue to provide stability next season.

Danny Watkins – Things went from bad to worse for Watkins in his second season. He started six games before being sidelined with what Andy Reid called a “chronic” ankle injury. Even when Watkins got healthy, he was kept off the field in favor of journeyman Jake Scott. According to EaglesCap.com, the Eagles would be on the hook for $2.15M if they cut Watkins before next season. The question is no longer: Will he live up to the expectations of a first-round pick? It is now: What role can he play on your roster? Perhaps Chip Kelly thinks Watkins is still salvageable. Maybe he’ll peg him as a backup. Or maybe he’ll get rid of him altogether.

Jason Peters -He first underwent surgery in April, but Peters re-injured his Achilles in May and had to have a second surgery. In 2011, Peters was sensational. Even if he gets back to 75 percent of the player he was, you probably have yourself an above-average left tackle.

Todd Herremans – His injury occurred on November 5. Herremans sustained a dislocated bone, some fractures and torn ligaments in his right foot. Back in December, he said he doesn’t anticipate missing OTAs or mini-camps. Herremans’ 24 starts the last two seasons have come at right tackle. But the truth is, he was not playing well at that spot last year before getting injured. There’s a possibility he gets moved back inside to guard (more on that below).

Dallas Reynolds – Like the rest of the backup offensive linemen, he got his chance and struggled. Reynolds was out of practice-squad chances and ended up starting 14 games. You can’t fault his effort, but the Eagles will likely look to upgrade its offensive line depth before 2013.

King Dunlap – He started 13 games last year and was up-and-down. Dunlap certainly had his share of issues, but he’s a career backup so any assessment has to be based on a fair set of expectations. Going forward, the guess is that the Eagles will sign or draft someone with higher upside. Dunlap is a free agent. Remember, the Eagles showed no interest in signing him last year until Peters went down in the spring.

Jake Scott – He’s also a free agent. Scott started seven games and played OK. He’ll turn 32 in April and started 112 straight games from 2005 to 2011. If I’m the Eagles, I’d at least explore the possibility of bringing him back as a reserve. In the end, though, they might just opt for someone younger who can be developed.

Dennis Kelly – Initially thought of as a project, Kelly ended up starting 10 games as a rookie. The fifth-round pick saw action at guard and tackle, performing better at the latter. He had some good moments sprinkled in, but struggled quite a bit. Perhaps that was to be expected. Kelly will have to compete for a roster spot as a backup this offseason.

Demetress Bell – The Eagles were aggressive in signing Bell after the Peters injury, but he turned out to be a disaster, starting just four games all season. His days in Philadelphia are over.

Other guys who are on the roster but didn’t see significant action last year: Matt Kopa, Nate Menkin, Matt Reynolds, Matt Tennant, Julian Vandervelde.

LOOKING AHEAD

On paper, this unit actually has a chance to once again be a strength if Peters, Herremans and Kelce all come back healthy.

Tim wrote recently about what Kelly is looking for out of his offensive linemen. I recently spoke to Kelce, who said he’s had numerous conversations with the Eagles’ new head coach and likes what he’s hearing.

“I’m pretty excited about the whole situation in general because I’m very familiar with the spread style of offense I think he’s probably going to institute,” Kelce said. “I did a lot of that in college. Basically, in my opinion, it makes an offensive line’s job just so much easier. I’m excited about everything, and once they get a coach in here, I’ll be excited to see what he says.”

There are still a lot of unknowns about what Kelly is going to do offensively. And he’s yet to name an offensive line coach. If he plans on bringing his up-tempo attack to the NFL, the offensive linemen will have to be in great shape. That’s especially important this year with three of the five starters potentially coming off of injuries.

From a personnel standpoint, the key question is: Where will Herremans play? I touched on this above, and some have pointed out previously that Herremans is making tackle money. But he’s due to make $4.3M next season, according to EaglesCap.com. That doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable amount for an above-average guard. Mathis is scheduled to make $4M. And Ben Grubbs has a base salary of $5.2M.

In other words, I don’t think this will be a financially-based decision. There are some highly-rated tackles in April’s draft, such as Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. All are expected to be first-round picks. If Howie Roseman deems one of them the best player available when the Eagles pick, he shouldn’t hesitate with his choice.

As for free agency, there are some intriguing names out there like Denver’s Ryan Clady and Cincinnati’s Andre Smith. But both players are expected to stay put. Other free-agent options include Chiefs tackle Branden Albert, Dolphins tackle Jake Long and Bills guard Andy Levitre.

While I’m sure the Eagles will explore all their options, I’d be surprised if they made a huge splash on the offensive line in free agency. That could change if one of the injured players suffers a setback in their rehab, but otherwise, the plan will likely be to add a veteran or two for depth and build through the draft.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for today’s game against the Giants: Greg Salas, Chris Polk, Danny Watkins, Matt Kopa, Evan Moore, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks.

Cox and Kendricks both suffered concussions last week against the Redskins. Derek Landri will start in Cox’s place. The Eagles will continue to go to a rotation that includes Cullen Jenkins, Landri, Cedric Thornton and Antonio Dixon, who just re-signed with the team last week.

Akeem Jordan gets the start at WILL in Kendricks’ place.

With Nick Foles out, Michael Vick will get his first start since suffering a concussion against the Cowboys on Nov. 11. Trent Edwards will back him up. If Vick suffers a serious injury, the Eagles could be on the hook for a $3 million guarantee (details here).

Watkins is a healthy scratch for the second straight week. The backup offensive linemen will be Demetress Bell and Matt Tennant.

Fullback Stanley Havili returns to the lineup after missing last week’s game.

Darryl Tapp was a healthy scratch last week, but is back in the lineup.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for today’s 1 p.m. matchup against the Redskins: Michael Vick, Greg Salas, Chris Polk, Stanley Havili, Darryl Tapp, Danny Watkins and Matt Kopa.

The surprises on the list are Watkins and Tapp. Watkins did not appear on the injury report all week and looks to be a healthy scratch. The Eagles have two backup offensive linemen: Matt Tennant and Demetress Bell. Tennant would presumably enter the game in the event that Evan Mathis, Dallas Reynolds or Jake Scott were to suffer an injury. Bell is the swing tackle.

As for Tapp, the Eagles have tightened their defensive line rotation in recent weeks, allowing starting defensive ends Trent Cole and Brandon Graham to play more snaps. This gives younger players Vinny Curry and Phillip Hunt a chance to play more.

Despite being healthy, Vick is inactive. He has not dressed since suffering a concussion against the Cowboys on Nov. 11. Trent Edwards will serve as Nick Foles’ backup.

LeSean McCoy returns to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 18 when he sustained a concussion in the final two minutes of the first meeting with the Redskins. He’ll start but will likely be eased back in, Andy Reid said during the week. Bryce Brown figures to see a fair share of playing time.

Brent Celek missed last week’s game because of a concussion. He’s back in the lineup today. Tight end Evan Moore, who was signed during the week, is active. Emil Igwenagu replaces Havili at fullback. He could see some snaps at tight end too.

Don’t forget to join us for a live chat during today’s game. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

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Business Decision Coming For Jake Scott

Jake Scott is a football player. And as he demonstrated earlier this offseason, he is also a businessman.

Scott reportedly turned down several offers this offseason because the price wasn’t right. His streak of 121 straight starts went up in smoke, and the 31-year-old was without a team for more than half the year before ultimately signing a one-year deal with the Eagles. After all that, he’s on the verge of hitting free agency again.

“Just kind of wait and see what happens after the season — that was kind of the deal coming in,” said Scott. “Just come in and play and have some fun with it and let’s see what happens this offseason. I think that is the only way it could have worked. They obviously weren’t going to pay me a significant amount of money to just come in for seven weeks, and I probably wouldn’t have signed for anything more than a one-year deal. It’s just how it worked.”

Why did you only want to go one year?

“Well it wouldn’t make sense. I didn’t have the leverage to get a good enough deal to sign for more than one year. There’s no leverage, so why do it?” he explained.

Scott has a little bit better leverage now, it would seem.

Speaking both to Scott’s ability and the wobbly state of the offensive line, the former Titan and Colt was signed on November 12 and was starting in place of Danny Watkins at right guard six days later. Though far from perfect, he has proven to be an upgrade over Watkins. Scott has allowed two sacks and one quarterback hit, according to Pro Football Focus. All of that damage (plus five QB hurries) came against the Bucs. In all, he has committed six penalties and yielded 11 QB hurries in five starts for the Eagles.

“I’ve enjoyed myself. It’s been disappointing that we haven’t won more games but it’s fun to be back playing football, it’s fun to be part of a group where on offense I think we have improved every week and we’re playing better,” he said. “We’re still making mistakes but it’s been fun to be a part of that.

“It’s a good place to be, good people to be around, good coaching staff. The organization has been great to me so I have enjoyed that.”

There is a good chance the coaching staff won’t be here next year. Scott was asked how that will play into his decision-making.

“Until something actually happens it doesn’t affect me at all,” he said. “I’m not going to have a say in that so I’ll have to wait and see what happens, if anything happens, and go from there.”

If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that Scott will weigh his options.

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Scott’s Play Keeps Watkins On Sideline

Jake Scott doesn’t have some dramatic tale to tell about how he spent time preparing for his return to the NFL.

“Worked out four times a week at Vanderbilt,” Scott said. “Stay in shape. Do what I needed to do to be ready.”

That was it. An unsigned free agent for the first 10 weeks of the season, Scott did some work in the weight room. Some conditioning. Maybe a session on the field. Usually no more than 90 minutes per day.

“You play professional football,” Scott said. “If they call you up and say come play, you’ve got to be ready to come play.  You don’t go in and say ‘Well, I’ll be ready three weeks from now.’ You signed me to play this week. I’ll be ready to play this week.”

Scott has come in and played well, starting the last three games at right guard. Nick Foles has been sacked just twice in the last two games, and Bryce Brown has averaged an absurd 8.1 yards per carry on 43 attempts.

Scott and rookie Dennis Kelly have played surprisingly well together on the right side. Kelly, a rookie fifth-round pick, has started the last three games at right tackle.I asked him how playing alongside a veteran like Scott, who has 124 starts under his belt, has helped him.

“Just kind of little tidbits here and there to try and improve something that might not be broken, but maybe a little different approach might give you an extra 5 yards, that extra hole that Bryce has been able to find lately,” Kelly said. “So his experience is definitely something that has helped this line tremendously.”

Of course, Scott’s play has kept Danny Watkins on the sideline. The former first-round pick had been battling an ankle injury, but make no mistake about it. His health has very little or nothing to do with the fact that he’s being replaced by Scott.

“He’s right about there, and he worked in a little bit at the left guard last week when we had people banged-up just a little bit,” Reid said. “I think the group that’s playing right now is a positive. I’m sticking with that group as we speak. They’re playing well together.”

Watkins started the first six games, then sat out for three weeks and has played a reserve role in the last three. While Watkins wasn’t in the locker room before today’s practice, veteran Evan Mathis said he can relate to what the second-year player is going through.

“I told Danny in my third year, I played two snaps of football,” Mathis said. “Your future is in your own hands, and it’s still early for him. He still has a bright future ahead of him.”

But is it hard to stay positive?

“It’s really hard. I’ve been there. It’s really hard to stay positive. That’s why I try to tell him those kinds of things. Keep your head up. Keep working. Take every day as an opportunity to work to get better.”

Watkins will continue to try and do that in practice, while Scott will likely finish out the season on the field.

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OL Review: Scott Still In For Watkins

It’s probably too little, too late, but the Eagles’ offensive line turned in one of its best performances of the season Sunday night against the Cowboys.

Sure, it helped that Dallas was without Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, but the offense scored points on six of 10 offensive possessions. Nick Foles was sacked just once and had a comfortable pocket for most of the game. On the ground, the Eagles averaged 7.0 yards per carry, which help neutralize DeMarcus Ware. The Eagles often ran play-fakes right at Ware to slow him down.

Below is the player-by-player breakdown:

King Dunlap – He had some issues, but overall, did a respectable job against Ware, especially considering Dunlap was playing through a knee injury. In pass protection, he allowed Ware to get some pressure on Foles as he dumped it off to Clay Harbor for 3 yards in the third. Ware got past Dunlap in the fourth, but Foles escaped and threw complete to Jason Avant. Dunlap allowed the team’s only sack, as Victor Butler went right around him, one-on-one, and stripped Foles in the fourth. He did a poor job on Jason Hatcher on Bryce Brown’s run that lost 6 yards in the first. On the flip side, Dunlap got out in front and blocked the linebacker on Dion Lewis’ 11-yard run in the third. He helped shove Ware upfield on Brown’s 13-yard run in the fourth.

Evan Mathis – He’s really playing well right now. Mathis did a nice job on the linebacker on the 13-yard screen to Damaris Johnson in the first. He threw the key block on Brown’s 10-yard touchdown in the first. And Mathis got to the linebacker on Brown’s second touchdown run. He pinned Hatcher on Brown’s 20-yard run in the second and did a good job on Josh Brent on Lewis’ 11-yard run in the third. Mathis blocked Hatcher and helped create a lane for Brown on his 13-yard run in the fourth. Strong overall game.

Dallas Reynolds – I thought he also delivered a pretty good performance, especially considering he was dealing with an ankle injury and listed as questionable on Friday. Let’s start with the good. Reynolds did an excellent job getting to linebackers on the second level all game long. Examples: Brown’s first touchdown run, Brown’s 20-yard run in the second, Brown’s 13-yard run in the fourth. He and Dennis Kelly had a nice double-team on Brown’s 39-yard run in the second. And Reynolds had an excellent block on Marcus Spears on Brown’s second touchdown run. The issues? Brent got past him and pressured Foles, forcing him to throw it away in the fourth. And Reynolds failed to switch off his man and pick up Ernie Sims on the first play from scrimmage.

Jake Scott - By all accounts I’ve heard, Danny Watkins was healthy last week and ready to start at left guard if Mathis had to play center. Yet Scott still started at right guard in his place. And Scott played pretty well too. It’s now officially fair to question why the Eagles didn’t sign him earlier in the season. Scott sealed the edge and allowed Brown to turn the corner on his 39-yard run in the second. He did a nice job of switching off his man on a stunt in the second, giving Foles time to hit Avant for 29 yards. When the Eagles needed a first down on 3rd-and-2 in the third, they ran Brown right behind Scott and picked it up. He did a nice job on Sims on Brown’s 17-yard run in the third. And Scott got to Dan Connor on the shovel pass to Brown that picked up 7. He did a good job on the linebacker on Brown’s 2nd-and-2 carry that picked up 6 yards. Most of the Eagles’ issues in pass protection came late when Dallas knew they had to throw the ball (and perhaps the linemen were fatigued). Spears beat him badly in the fourth, forcing Foles to scramble and throw the ball away.

Dennis Kelly – He has issues here and there, but overall, Kelly looks like a pretty competent right tackle. He did a nice job on Spears on Brown’s 5-yard run in the first. He handled Anthony Spencer one-on-one on an 8-yard completion to Brown in the first. Kelly threw a key block on Brown’s 24-yard run in the first. Perfectly-executed double team by him and Brent Celek on Brown’s second touchdown run. Nice job switching off his man and handling a stunt on a 29-yard completion to Avant. Good block on Sean Lissemore, creating a running lane for Brown on his 17-yard carry in the third. Kelly got out in front of the screen to Avant and blocked Ware. He had some trouble with Spencer on Foles’ incompletion to Riley Cooper in the third. And Kelly got beaten by Spencer in the fourth, but the Cowboys linebacker was called for roughing the passer on the play.

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