Throughout this past season we saw the ups and downs of an Eagles offensive line that went through many personnel changes. Of course, this was due to Lane Johnson’s suspension and injuries to other o-line players. Still, this group performed particularly well this past year, overall, and I suspect we’ll see an improvement on their performance during the 2017 season.
During the preseason, Pro Football Focus had ranked the Eagles offensive line No. 7 in the NFL. After their last game against the Cowboys, PFF ranked them No. 8 overall. Think about that. With all of the makeshift line changes, forcing the team to use fifth-round rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai, then left guard Allen Barbre and then Matt Tobin all at right tackle, the personnel consistency was never present, but the performance, for the most part, certainly was. That says a lot about the current depth chart.
The Eagles have a talented group of linemen starting on the right side of the line with Johnson. He is arguably a top-5 tackle in the NFL. Aside from some personal issues, RG Brandon Brooks was excellent in his first season with the team and was probably their best and most productive free agent pick-up. He only allowed one sack all season. LT Jason Peters was ranked No. 7 in the league for his position. At his age, he’s still performing at an exceedingly high level and has adapted his play on the field as he faces young and upcoming defenders (and yes, I do realize he was the most penalized right tackle in the league). Allen Barbre, the left gurad, has showed the ability to modify his game and that means he’s a solid asset in the running and passing game.
Now, the only starter left, who I do not believe will be on the team next season, is center Jason Kelce. It’s something we talked about on the show and I even called for Stefan Wisniewski to replace him after the first Giants game. Yes, he’s given a lot of great years. Fans love him, and we should. But it’s time to move on and either give Wisniewski (Wiz) or OL Isaac Seumalo the opportunity to start next season. While I would prefer Seumalo’s build and physical presence at the center position, I believe Wiz would be a very suitable fit.
There doesn’t appear to be a glaring need to spend a first-round pick on a tackle or guard in the upcoming draft, and I don’t believe the Eagles will need to break the bank to bring in depth through free agency. Although we may see them sign an o-lineman or two during this offseason, it’s definitely not the most glaring need on the team as it has been over the past few years. Fans wanted the team to concentrate on the building a good, solid line for the future after the 2015 season concluded. Howie Roseman did just that by bringing in Brooks and drafting Vaitai and Seumalo.
I do expect the Eagles to draft a lineman. Might they draft OL Chad Wheeler (6’6”, 310 lbs.) from USC in the 3rd or 4th round? Might they look at OL J.J. Dielman (6’5”, 300 lbs.) out of Utah if he’s available on the 3rd day? Both are quick off the ball and would be great prospects for o-line coach Jeff Stoutland to groom.
The reality is that the Eagles don’t need to draft a guy like Cam Robinson or Ryan Ramczyk, currently the two top offensive tackle prospects, early. Nor do they need to spend a ton of money by targeting veteran free agents like Matt Kalil or Andre Smith. There’s no need this offseason.
We can take comfort in the fact that the Eagles don’t need to focus their attention on the offensive line with as much force as last season. We know that wide receiver, cornerback and running back will be a major focus moving forward in this offseason.