PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles‘ offensive line absorbed another blow Thursday when left tackle Andre Dillard went down with a biceps injury that will likely require season-ending surgery. Combine that with the loss of Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks, who ruptured his Achilles in June, and you have one hard-hit unit.
Where does that leave quarterback Carson Wentz‘s protection with the start of the season a little more than two weeks away?
The good news is Jason Peters remains on the roster. The Eagles re-signed him to a one-year deal to fill in for Brooks at right guard and serve as an insurance policy should something go wrong at tackle. Well … something has gone wrong at tackle, and the expectation is Peters will move back to his natural position and man Wentz’s blind side. Matt Pryor will likely slide into the right guard post, so the starting five (from left to right) will most likely be: Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Pryor and Lane Johnson.
That’s not too shabby a lineup on paper. Plenty of teams around the league would sign up for that.
Depth is where the issue lies for the Eagles. It was already thinner than normal with the departure of Halapoulivaati Vaitai in free agency this offseason. Now, a group of unproven players are an injury away from a potentially significant role, including: Jordan Mailata, the former rugby player out of Australia who has been serving as the backup left tackle in camp, with mixed results; young interior linemen Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta; and rookies Jack Driscoll and Prince Tega Wanogho.
Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has earned a reputation for being among the best talent developers in the business. They’ll need him to live up to that reputation in 2020.
All eyes will be on the left tackle spot. Truth is, they already were. Dillard, the team’s 2019 first-round pick, added 20 pounds of muscle to his athletic frame this offseason and was being talked up by coaches, but there was uncertainty in some pockets of the organization about whether he was ready to take over full time. He was up and down at camp, leaving the discussion open as to whether he would be a stabilizing force or an issue come the regular season.
Peters, 38, has built a Pro Football Hall of Fame worthy résumé and appears to have some gas left in the tank, but injuries have forced him off the field more than he would like in recent seasons and it’s reasonable to expect that to continue in Year 17.
Wentz is no statue behind the line; he’s adept at slipping past a rush and making a play. But a solid line would improve his chances of finishing the season healthy and on his own terms for the first time in four seasons.
Whether he’ll have that security up front is a legit question entering the season.