Eagles Wake-Up Call: The State Of the O-Line
The Eagles’ offensive line situation took a hit Thursday evening as the team released Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis.
The move is puzzling because the team had all the leverage here. Mathis was under contract, and as Tim reported, he was planning on showing up to mandatory minicamp next week. Would he have been happy? Maybe not. But Mathis was in the exact same situation last year. He still showed up, played his butt off and was consistent and dependable once again.
Why then cut ties with him when there are no obvious replacements on the roster?
The bottom line is Chip Kelly has shown time and again that he’s not worried about value or leverage. He makes swift decisions on players he no longer wants, and he gets rid of them regardless of other circumstances.
The move also signals to other players who are unhappy with their contracts that there’s a way out. Sure, Mathis might not get a better deal on the open market. But the bottom line is he did not want to play here under his current deal, and now he gets a chance to see if there’s anything better out there.
If Eagles players feel they’ve outperformed their deals in the future, they very well could follow Mathis’ blueprint.
Even with Mathis, the Eagles were thin up front. So what do things look like now?
We can pencil in Jason Peters at left tackle, Jason Kelce at center and Lane Johnson at right tackle. At left guard, it’ll likely be Allen Barbre. The coaching staff has been talking him up for two years, but the soon-to-be 31 year old has started eight games in seven years. Barbre was probably going to start either way, but now it’ll be on the left side where he’s more comfortable.
On the right side, Matt Tobin will get a shot. Tobin is entering his third season and was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa. He started seven games last year but struggled and eventually lost his job.
Veterans Andrew Gardner and Dennis Kelly will be given a chance to compete, as will some of the undrafted free agents.
If the Eagles knew months ago that they might eventually just release Mathis, they should have addressed the position in free agency. They haven’t drafted an offensive line since Lane Johnson, the No. 4 overall selection in 2013.
When the Eagles signed DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, the assumption was that they wanted to recommit to the run game.
“We want to get back to running the ball,” said running backs coach Duce Staley last week. “We want to get back to just taking over the line of scrimmage. You do that of course with the offensive line. And you do that with good running backs.”
The problem? They’ll now be counting on a pair of complete unknowns at the guard spots. If they lose even one of Peters, Kelce or Johnson to injury, things could get ugly. And we haven’t even mentioned the need to protect Sam Bradford.
The Eagles have a lot of nice pieces in place, but much of their success offensively will depend on the guys up front, and the focus now is on the two new starting guards.
WHAT YOU MISSED
T-Mac with more on Mathis’ release.
Growth mindset: How the ideas from a Stanford psychology professor are shaping the Eagles offseason.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers his thoughts on Mathis:
If there is one benefit to the timing, the Eagles have the upcoming minicamp and all of Training Camp to get reps for the young guys and to find the best 5 starting OL.
Kelly and his OL will have the final say in how this situation looks. If Barbre is good at LG and one of the other players emerges at RG, this won’t be such a big deal. If a DL beats one of the OGs and gets a hit on Sam Bradford that results in an injury, Kelly and the Eagles will never hear the end of it.
One of the strangest offseasons in recent memory continues to be just that, strange. What’s next, re-signing Danny Watkins?
Great read from the Daily News’ Paul Domowitch on Bradford:
NFL scouts still speak in superlatives about Bradford’s Pro Day workout before the 2010 draft.
“He threw for something like 45 minutes and however many passes, and there was just one ball that was a little bit off,” Stoops said. “One slant [throw] was back on the hip. The rest of them were right where you’d want the football to be.
“I was on the golf cart with him after his workout and someone was asking him if he was going to throw again if [individual] teams wanted to work him out. Somebody said, ‘Why would you want to throw again?’
“He didn’t say anything and kind of half-smiled at me, and I looked at him and said, ‘Because you know you’d do it again.’ He shook his head as if to say, ‘I’m not afraid to throw the football.’ He said, ‘I’ll throw every day if they want me to.’
“It wasn’t a fluke that he had that day. He can have that day all the time. He’s that good.”
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