Eagles Wake-Up Call: OL Depth Chart Analysis

Who will win the starting left guard job?

Jason Peters and Jeff Stoutland. (Jeff Fusco)

Jason Peters and Jeff Stoutland. (Jeff Fusco)

We kicked off this series by looking at the wide receiverslinebackers and defensive linemen. Now, let’s move on to the offensive line.

Current group

Projected starters (left to right): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson.

Reserves: C Bruce Johnson, C/G Josh Andrews, C/G Barrett Jones, C/G Stefen Wisniewski, G Malcolm Bunche, G Dillion Gordon, G Darrell Greene, G Isaac Seumalo, G/T Andrew Gardner, G/T Dennis Kelly, G/T Matt Tobin, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Analysis

The Eagles weren’t shy about spending money this offseason on the offensive line in an attempt to counteract Chip Kelly’s years of neglect. Howie Roseman handed Lane Johnson a 5-year, $56.26 million extension, and he signed Brandon Brooks to a 5-year, $40 million deal in free agency. Meanwhile, Jason Peters is in the second season of his 4-year, $41.3 million extension, and Jason Kelce is in the second season of his 6-year, $37.5 million extension.

The one position the Eagles don’t have a set starter at? Left guard. At the start of OTAs, Doug Pederson named Barbre the starter and said the job was his to lose, so I’ll pencil Barbre in there for now. However, he’ll be competing with multiple guys, including Wisniewski, who has made it very clear he signed with the Eagles to start this season, and Seumalo, the Eagles’ 2016 third-round pick.

Which linemen the Eagles keep on the 53-man roster will also be an interesting battle, as they have several backups returning from last year, plus a few solid candidates to take their jobs. Greene received the most guaranteed money among all of the undrafted free agents this year, while Vaitai was a fifth-round pick. Gardner is also returning from injury, while the Eagles hope young guys like Andrews and Bunche develop into contributors.

What I think will happen

It’s tough to evaluate linemen during the spring when they aren’t wearing pads, so the projected starters and backups along the line could change very quickly once training camp starts in a couple of weeks. But for now, I’d rank Wisniewski as the top challenger for Barbre at left guard. Regardless of whether Wisniewski beats out Barbre, I’d pencil in Barbre as the primary backup offensive tackle, with Johnson rotating to the left side and Barbre playing on the right if anything happens to Peters.

When it comes to which offensive linemen will make the 53-man roster, I’d be very surprised if one of these eight guys don’t make the team: Peters, Barbre, Kelce, Brooks, Johnson, Wisniewski, Seumalo and Tobin. But after that, it’s a crap shoot to me. How many guys do they keep? How many do they activate on game day?

In my first 53-man projection, I included Vaitai and Gardner, but Vaitai could be hurt by his lack of position versatility. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Greene or Kelly make the team, and others — like Bunche — will have plenty of opportunities to impress coaches. Behind cornerback, this is the most interesting position battle on the team to me.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Carson Wentz is the QB of the future. The only question is how far away that future is, and whether Chase Daniel will keep him as the No. 3 guy for a stretch in the meantime.” What They’re Saying.

A closer look at the advanced analytics on Sam Bradford when he’s under pressure.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor shows some appreciation for the linebackers, which is a group that hasn’t been consistently good recently.

The Eagles played the Wide 9 back in 2011 and 2012. Rookie Casey Matthews was the MLB in 2011 and struggled. Jamar Chaney played inside and outside. He struggled. Brian Rolle, who I used to love, played some WLB and was inconsistent. Akeem Jordan and Keenan Clayton were also on that team.

LB was upgraded in the offseason. DeMeco Ryans took over at MLB. Mychal Kendricks was drafted and Juan Castillo put him at SAM, which seemed very strange at the time. Rolle lost his mojo, and his job. Jordan and Chaney split time as the third starter.

Compare those 2 sets to the projected trio of Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks, now a veteran player. Those guys each have shown good NFL talent and they each fit their position. I think this group has the potential to be outstanding. There are no promises, of course. Hicks has to stay healthy. Kendricks has to bounce back from a disappointing season. Bradham is new to the Eagles and there is always some mystery when players change teams.

The last time the Eagles ran the 4-3 and got good LB play was 2008. That was [Chris] Gocong, [Stewart] Bradley and Omar Gaither. I think the current group has the potential to be better than them and I’m excited to see what these guys do in 2016.

The second starting cornerback spot opposite of Leodis McKelvin will be another training camp battle to watch, says Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.

We’ll start with Ron Brooks, whose familiarity with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz‘s system had him lining up as a starter throughout OTAs. During his four years in Buffalo, though, Brooks was primarily a special teams player, with just three starts to his name. When he signed as a free agent, he said he wanted to push for a starting gig. Brooks also has the ability to play in the slot. During the spring, he was a starter outside and when the team moved into nickel, he moved into the slot.

Next up is Eric Rowe. He had a slow start to his rookie season in 2015, but once Nolan Carroll went down on Thanksgiving, Rowe became a starter and thrived. He had a better end of the year than Byron Maxwell, who is now in Miami. For much of the spring, Rowe was the third corner on the field; when Rowe took an outside spot, Brooks slid inside. Many expected Rowe to be handed a starting gig, but that hasn’t happened.

Carroll was playing at a pretty high level last season before breaking his fibula against the Lions. He signed a one-year deal to rejoin the Eagles this offseason and rehabbed to the point where he was finally able to get involved in some team portions of practice toward the end of OTAs.

Then there’s rookie Jalen Mills. It might be a little weird to include a seventh-rounder on a list of players who could get playing time this season, but the coaching staff was clearly impressed with his play at OTAs. We’ll have to see how he performs at training camp, when the pads come on.

Jon Dorenbos killed it once again on America’s Got Talent.

COMING UP

Training camp is 12 days away.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.


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