Eagles Wake-Up Call: Andrew Gardner’s Ascent


Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Three weeks ago, it was unclear who would be the Eagles’ starting right guard. Although Andrew Gardner was practicing a lot with the starting unit, Matt Tobin and John Moffitt also rotated in with the first-team offensive line.

Now, halfway through the preseason, it seems all but finalized that Gardner will be the week one starter.

“Andrew played another good game. We’re really pleased with how he’s playing right now,” Chip Kelly said before Monday’s practice. “There is no reason to rush [announcing a starter]. But he’s doing a really good job.”

One reason Gardner has separated himself is because of his chemistry and communication with the lineman to his left—center Jason Kelce—and the lineman to his right—tackle Lane Johnson.

Take, for instance, the play below. Kelce and Gardner execute a “mate” block as they both initially attack the defensive lineman, before Gardner peels off and blocks the linebacker on the second level. Although DeMarco Murray runs through a different hole, Gardner still does a nice job.

Murray TD

“We had two combination blocks where we got really good movement,” Kelce said. “That was something Todd Herremans was good at in the run game and we didn’t know if that would transition to whoever was coming in at right guard.”

However, after reviewing every snap Gardner played on passing downs, he looked even better in pass protection. He did a good job regardless of whether the defensive lineman bull rushed him or used a finesse move. He also did well in both single and combination blocking.

The only time Gardner got pushed back off his mark was when the play called for a quick throw. On every other pass play, the defensive lineman opposite of Gardner never came close to pressuring the quarterback.

“I felt good about my pass protection this week,” Gardner said. “I thought they had a good defensive line and had some good pass rushers. I just tried to focus on being balanced. To pass block properly, you have to be in balance. If you’re out of balance, you’ll miss or get thrown or get ran over.”

One of the few mistakes Gardner did make, however, was on a run play early in the game. The Eagles were running a sweep to the right, which called for Gardner to pull and block the first defender he saw coming around the outside. He dove at—but missed—Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, who got his hands on Murray and forced the loss of two yards.

Andrew Gardner's Missed Block

“I didn’t really handle that well,” Gardner said. “They brought a guy off the edge and I went to cut him and I missed him. He made a nice play, but I probably should’ve stayed up and tried to wall him out. It was just a bad decision.”

Regardless, mistakes were few and far between for Gardner in the Ravens game. According to Kelce, that has been the case throughout training camp and offseason workouts as well.

“Throughout training camp, he’s really stood out as the most consistent guy,” Kelce said. “At all times, he knows what’s going on around him, he knows what his responsibility is, he knows what his job is and he gets his job done. This year, he’s really done a much better job knowing that he’s preparing for that right guard position. He’s done a great job for us.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles signed Mychal Kendricks to a four-year extension worth $29 million.

We broke down how all nine of the touchdowns and turnovers against the Ravens came about.

“It wasn’t a read-option play.” Chip Kelly on the contentious Terrell Suggs hit.

A glance around the NFC East, including a brewing quarterback controversy.

Breaking down DeMarco Murray’s debut and the Eagles’ high-powered rushing attack.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Marcus Hayes says Sam Bradford showed Saturday why Chip Kelly and the Eagles decided to take a chance on his potential.

Nick Foles is big and smart and capable, but not special.

Mark Sanchez is smart and capable, but not special.

Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow – smart, too. Maybe even capable.

But when Bradford flicked six passes against the Ravens’ defense in the second preseason game, it was obvious why the Eagles believed they had to send Foles to St. Louis to see if Bradford’s twice-repaired knee could carry their franchise.

Eagles fans saw Chip Kelly’s system finally coming together Saturday, writes David Murphy.

Like all things preseason, this little slice was all about process. Two years ago, the Eagles had one running back who preferred holes that were not the primary one and another who could not hang onto the ball. Their primary receiver had the ability to run fast in a straight line but not the ability to adapt as the field shrunk. In Sproles, Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, they now have three receivers who can run routes and make catches in traffic, one of whom can also shift into a backfield that now features two big, decisive backs who get downhill and believe in the power of 4 or 5 yards over the illusion of 30.

COMING UP

We’ll speak to Bill Davis at 11:20. Practice begins at 11:40.

Adam Hermann contributed to this post.