Eagles Wake-Up Call: O-Line Training Camp Preview

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Leading up to training camp on August 2, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We’ve covered the running backs and wide receivers so far. Today, we’ll take a look at the offensive line.

The pressing question: Are the Eagles OK at the guard spots?

The Birds are in a strange situation with their offensive line. On one hand, it’s conceivable that they’ll finish the season with three Pro Bowlers up front in Jason PetersJason Kelce and Lane Johnson. Peters and Kelce have already proven themselves, and Johnson has a chance to take the next step in his development.

On the other hand, even if those three guys play well, this could be a mediocre unit overall because of who will be lining up at the two guard spots.

Allen Barbre is the heavy favorite to start at left guard. He’s more comfortable on that side and has drawn consistent praise from the coaching staff and his teammates. While those are positive signs, the fact of the matter is Barbre has started eight games in seven NFL seasons. In other words, expect him to be there Week 1, but don’t bank on him delivering an above average performance.

The right guard spot is an even bigger question mark. Matt Tobin is probably the favorite to get the nod with a strong showing in August. He saw significant snaps last year, but did not perform well, eventually losing the starting job. Tobin was also battling an ankle injury, so it’s possible we see marked improvement from him.

John Moffitt is the wild card. He’s battled his demons off the field but has starting experience. The optimistic Eagles fan will see Moffitt as a potential feel-good story – someone who can clean himself up and resurrect his NFL career. The pessimist will see the move as one of desperation after Chip Kelly let Evan Mathis walk for nothing. But make no mistake about it: Moffitt has a chance to start if he outplays his peers in camp.

And finally, Andrew Gardner may be the safest option. He’s not going to wow anyone, but has experience playing both guard and tackle in this scheme.

Roster battles

In terms of the starting five, the biggest competition is at right guard, as outlined above.

For the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume that the Eagles keep nine offensive linemen. The following six, in my opinion, are pretty much locks: Peters, Barbre, Kelce, Tobin, Johnson, Gardner. That leaves three spots up for grabs.

The Eagles need a backup center, so David Molk has a good shot of sticking ahead of Julian Vandervelde. And Moffitt has a decent chance of sticking.

Others like Dennis Kelly and undrafted free agent Brett Boyko could crack the 53-man roster with strong showings in the preseason.

One thing I think

Johnson will make his first Pro Bowl.

The only offensive lineman drafted under Kelly will take the leap. From Year 1 to Year 2, we saw Johnson improve dramatically in pass protection. Now I want to see him make those “wow” plays in the run game that will have Cris Collinsworth drooling during Sunday Night Football broadcasts.

I really feel like that could happen this year with Johnson. He has all the physical tools and seems to have taken his offseason training seriously. The sense here is that Johnson felt like he disappointed the team with last year’s four-game suspension, and he’s focused on proving his worth in 2015.


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This time next week, we’ll have practice observations for you. We’ll continue the ramp-up today.