What the Future Holds For the Eagles’ O-line
With a decade in the NFL already under his belt, Barrett Brooks could feel his career winding down in Pittsburgh. He played in nearly 100 games in his first six seasons alone, and he didn’t have much left in the tank.
But then Bill Cowher started giving Brooks “maintenance days,” which Brooks says extended his career by two or three seasons. The former offensive lineman expects Doug Pederson to do the same for Jason Peters, which is why he thinks Peters will still be productive.
“[Pederson] knows how to give guys days off, and that’s going to be huge,” Brooks said. “He’s going to give them days and allow them to sit down to rest. Chip [Kelly] wasn’t having that. Chip still made him practice. You can’t have a guy like that.”
A decreased workload will also help Peters, as the Eagles ran 11 percent more plays than the Chiefs during the regular season in the last three years. Although Peters’ athleticism is declining, Brooks says the future Hall of Famer is still explosive enough to be better than most of the offensive tackles in the NFL.
One of Peters’ blocks in the Patriots game stood out to Brooks not only as a hustle play, but as evidence of the explosiveness he still has.
“He’s not as explosive as he was, but he’s still explosive enough to be a quality left tackle in this league,” Brooks said. “He’ll be okay.”
When Peters is finished playing, Lane Johnson will likely replace him at left tackle. The Eagles re-signed Johnson to a five-year contract extension with $35.5 million in guaranteed money last week. Although Johnson was tied for second among NFL offensive tackles in penalties this season, Brooks is confident in the highest paid right tackle in the league.
“He can be a franchise left tackle easily,” Brooks said. “He’s that good of a player.”
What impressed Brooks this season was Johnson’s aggressive pass blocking, called jump sets, when he attacked the defensive end at the line of scrimmage instead of dropping back and waiting for the lineman to engage him. When Johnson switched from right to left tackle for the second Cowboys game with Peters sidelined, he did this often against Greg Hardy.
As for Jason Kelce, Brooks thinks he can get back to being a “very, very solid center.” Brooks pointed out that losing LeSean McCoy may have hurt Kelce with the running backs they brought in as replacements.
“The reason why [Kelce] took over Jamaal Jackson’s position and beat him out is because he can run, he can get out there in space, he can block linebackers in space,” Brooks said. “He could pull around and do things like that. But the change in the running back position — now they have guys who run north and south. He now has to understand being that light isn’t such a good thing; he’s got to gain a little more weight. He’s probably going to lift more, get a little stronger and get a little more mass to his body.”
Brooks said Kelce reminds him of former Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski, who made five consecutive Pro Bowls, because of his size and ability to get to the second level. He added that poor guard play next to Kelce hurt the center as well.
“He’s thinking about not just doing his job, but doing everybody else’s job, too,” Brooks said. “That’s one thing you can’t do, especially at the center position. You have to make sure you make the calls and take care of your blocking scheme point. Over-compensating for somebody else gets you beat.”
One of Kelce’s worst games of the season was against the Dolphins, and one play against Ndamukong Suh showed how more muscle can help the center, according to the former Eagle.
Still, Brooks doesn’t think the Eagles need to replace Kelce.
“I never thought they were going to change the center position, even though he didn’t have a good year this year,” Brooks said. “He’s still solid. They don’t need another center. He’ll be fine.”