We’re only a few weeks away from the start of Eagles Training Camp! Yeah, that was an exclamation mark because I’m excited about it, my friends. My favorite time of the year is right around the corner. I want to warn our readers and followers that when it comes to professional sports, I live for football. Therefore, many of my blog posts and thoughts in the coming months and during the NFL season will be focused on the Birds, their performance and what I’d like to see them doing on and off the field. So let’s get into it.
Everyone has been talking about the quarterback situation, and rightly so. It’s the one position on the team that’s generally the most important in terms of being able to put up wins. But I want to move away from the QB discussion and get to the foundation of the Eagles offense—the offensive line. These guys—fingers crossed—should be a healthy and dynamic unit when they play that first regular season game against the Redskins on Monday Night Football. I’ve always believed that when any football team has a healthy, talented and focused offensive line, the sky is the limit in terms of what kind of productivity and scoring can be achieved.
Does a team really need big contract and Pro-Bowl blockers up front? Nope. Just look what the Ravens o-line did last season with guys who weren’t the top-of-the-line players in the league. Sure, a couple of names like Bryant McKinnie and Marshal Yanda stand out (like Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans do on the Eagles), but this group weren’t among the best and elite. They had consistency and discipline. Don’t get me wrong, consistency at QB and RB certainly played a part in the Raven’s Super Bowl win. However, the real basis and groundwork for this success started up front with their offensive line. That is where offensive winning success is bred in the NFL.
Listen, do I think the Eagles will win the Super Bowl this coming season? No, I do not. But the underpinning is there for a very bright future.
Let’s look at the probable Eagles starters on the offensive line. Jason Peters (LT), Evan Mathis (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Todd Herremans (RG), Lane Johnson (RT). The physical healing, from reports, has just about come to fruition for many of these guys who were injured last season. Peters tore his Achilles in the 2012 offseason before ever seeing one snap, Kelce tore his ACL, Mathis and Herremans were plagued by foot and ankle problems and procedures. Mathis was the only lineman able to start all 16 games last season.
Aside from Johnson, we’ve seen these guys play at a high and intense level in the NFL, and they’re a solid crew that will protect either Vick, Foles or Barkley. There’s enough power, expertise and experience up front to give LeSean McCoy the lanes he didn’t have last season. Undoubtedly, the Birds o-line should be regarded as the most improved aspect of the team after we all witnessed the horrendous piecemeal work of 2012.
Aside from the players, we also have to look at the hiring of Jeff Stoutland, the former Alabama Crimson Tide offensive line coach. This hire could be one of Chip Kelly’s best. He oversaw and developed an offensive line unit that inevitably produced 3 draft picks from this past season. Two of them came in the first round. Of course, the NFL isn’t the NCAA, but Alabama runs as close to a professional football program than any other college in the nation. Stoutland is no Howard Mudd—thank heavens—and I’m confident we’ll see major differences in their coaching styles from the get-go.
Eagles fans should be chomping at the bit to see what this offensive line will do for whoever the starting QB will be. Just as important, it’ll be exciting to see how this line will help to improve McCoy’s stats from last season after he only scored two touchdowns. The Eagles only scored a total of 10 rushing touchdowns last season, and from 6 different players. As far as I can tell, the dismal and patchwork experimentation of the past few seasons are something of the past.
Without a doubt, the pieces up front are now in place to give this new offense consistency, power and even more scoring opportunities.