Eagles Wake-Up Call: O-Line Offseason Outlook


Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

This week we’ll continue to take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason. In the first four installments, we covered the quarterbacks, running backswide receivers and tight ends.  Now, it’s on to the offensive line. 

STATE OF THE ROSTER

Not great. But you knew that.

During Chip Kelly‘s three years at the helm, the Eagles drafted just one offensive lineman — Lane Johnson at No. 4 overall in 2013. That was the first pick of the Kelly era. The next 20 came and went without another offensive lineman being brought into the fold.

That, coupled with the decision to part with Evan Mathis this past offseason, has left the cupboard bare up front. Johnson was just locked into a multi-year deal and is the bridge to the future for this group. Jason Peters, 34, will eventually yield the left tackle spot to him. An injury-plagued 2015 highlighted the fact that Peters is in his twilight, and raised questions as to how much longer he will be a viable option. Jason Kelce took a big step back this past season, in large part because he tried to overcompensate for the men to either side of him. The hope is that the 28-year-old Kelce will rebound with improved guard play.

Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin played left and right guard, respectively, for the better part of the year. Barbre is scheduled to make $1.75 million this season. Tobin is a restricted free agent (as is David Molk). The original winner of the right guard competition, Andrew Gardner, is recovering from a Lisfranc injury of his right foot. He signed a three-year contract extension in September.

The other linemen currently under contract include Josh Andrews, Barrett Jones, Brett Boyko, Malcolm Bunche, Tanner Hawkinson and Dennis Kelly. 

Pro Football Focus had them as the 12th rated o-line in the league last year, down from second in 2014.

Pass-blocking rank: 18th

Run-blocking rank: 3rd

Penalties rank: 26th

Stud: Despite a big dropoff from his best, Jason Peters remained the best player on this line.

Dud: After getting rid of both of their guards last year, they needed players to step up. Matt Tobinmost certainly did not.

Summary: Not the cataclysmic collapse some expected, but a big drop off nonetheless. They tried to get younger, but in losing experience, they also lost talent—and the results were far less impressive than anything we’re used to seeing from them.

Football Outsiders, meanwhile, had the Eagles as the 30th ranked run blocking unit and 20th in pass protection based on adjusted sack rate (6.6 percent), which gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.

WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN

No big limb-stepping here, but I expect the Eagles to dedicate resources to the line both in free agency and the draft. Last season, this team put itself in a position where everything had to break right for the front to have success: Barbre had to meet the high in-house expectations and fill in seamlessly for Mathis; a competent right guard option needed to emerge; Peters had to continue his dominance; the unit needed to stay healthy…

It turned into a complete mess. The Eagles will begin the process of stockpiling assets at o-line to ensure they’re in decent shape when hard times inevitably hit.

I don’t expect them to go crazy in free agency, but it certainly would make some sense to target an interior lineman. And it would be no surprise if they went heavy in the draft depending on how it plays out. Asked where the strength of this draft lies, Doug Pederson first mentioned offensive line when we spoke to him at the Senior Bowl. The supply could meet the need here.

FREE AGENT LIST

Here are the top tackles and guards, according to FOX Sports’ WalterFootball.com (includes current teams and age).

Offensive Tackles

1.Cordy Glenn (Bills, 26)
2.Ryan Schraeder (Falcons, 28)
3.Russell Okung (Seattle, 27)
4.Donald Penn (Raiders, 33)
5.Kevin Beachum (Steelers 27)

Guards

1.Kelechi Osemele (Ravens, 27)
2.Evan Mathis (Broncos, 34)
3.Alex Boone (49ers, 29)
4.Jeff Allen (Chiefs, 26)
5.Richie Incognito (Bills, 33)

If the Eagles are going back to the old way of doing business, expect them to target twenty-something, mid-tier free agents.

Jahri Evans, in case you were wondering, is ranked ninth among free-agent guards.

DRAFT LIST

Here are the top o-line prospects in the draft, according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc., including their overall ranking:

1. OT Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi (No.4)
2.OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame (No. 11)
3.OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State (No. 14)
4.OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State (No. 24)
5.OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M (No. 40)
6.OT Shon Coleman, Auburn (No. 54)
7.OG Joshua Garnett, Stanford (No. 57)
8.OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State (No. 65)
9.OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana (No. 74)
10.OT Jerald Hawkins, LSU (No. 76)
11.OG Vadal Alexander, LSU (No. 92)

WHAT YOU MISSED

Is DeMarco Murray to Dallas a possibility? Adam’s NFC East roundup.

“Would they bring back Evan Mathis and blame all of that situation on Chip?” Weekend Reading.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue their Stay or Go Series by focusing in on Josh Huff, among others.

Josh Huff

Roob: We just keep waiting for Huff to blossom and two years into his career it just hasn’t happened. Huff has surpassed 30 receiving yards in just four career games and has just 410 receiving yards and three touchdowns to show for his first two seasons. Way too low for a third-round pick. Normally, I would cut a third-round pick who has underachieved like this, but I want to see Huff with a new staff and a new coach. I was never a Bob Bicknell fan, and I want to see what Huff can do with Greg Lewis coaching him. You can tell Huff has the tools. Can the Eagles get anything out of him? This is his last chance.

Verdict: STAYS  

Dave: This is a tough one. Huff is about as much a Chip Kelly guy as any on the roster. He played for Chip at Oregon and the two clearly had a good relationship based on what Huff said after Kelly was fired. And Huff has been a big underachiever, catching just 35 passes in two years. It has to be frustrating for the team to watch him struggle, because Huff clearly has talent. They’ll have to decide if it’s worth keeping him around despite a lack of production. But there’s potential there and I think it’ll be enough for the Eagles to keep him.

Verdict: STAYS

Tommy Lawlor takes a look at the QB draft class.

Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin gave Jared Goff the freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage. Cal did run a spread attack, but valued the QB being able to read the defense and make adjustments. I don’t think Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch have as much freedom.

Wentz does play in more of a conventional offense so getting to the line, reading the defense and changing plays/protections/routes should come easier to him than someone playing in a spread attack that is built more around quick reads and sideline adjustments.

The Eagles will likely meet extensively with all 3 of the top guys. They’ll put them on the whiteboard to test their X’s and O’s knowledge. Obviously that has to match up with what they see on game tape.

One guy outside the top 3 who I think would be good with pre-snap stuff is Kevin Hogan from Stanford. He lined up under center and ran a pro-style offense. He is a smart QB and vocal leader.

COMING UP

The Combine is next week. We’ll start getting you prepped for it.


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