June 13, 2017

Eagles OL coach Jeff Stoutland's many, many thoughts on his offensive linemen

Eagles NFL
061317JeffStoutland Chris Szagola/AP

This is Jeff Stoutland. He's in the middle.

On Monday, the Philadelphia Eagles' assistant coaches gathered for a media session with reporters for a half-hour or so each. I chose to camp out with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland for the entirety of the offensive portion of the day.

Rather than produce a column on a few of his points, we'll just publish all of Stoutland's thoughts on his linemen, from top to bottom, organizing his words by player while cutting out the filler.

Jason Peters

With Peters having played 16 games last year, is the philosophy that the less wear and tear on his body, the better? 

"The plan to manage, like a pitch count, how many plays he actually gets during the course of a week during camp was thought out, and to be honest with you, since I’ve been here, he had his best year. I think he was fresh all the way through the entire season."

Is Peters' absence from OTAs an issue?

"This is all voluntary. I love coaching Jason Peters. Selfishly, I’d love him to be here, but I think he’s played this game long enough that he knows… How many times can you kick slide on a defensive end? He knows the angles he has to take. He knows all that stuff. He has it down pat. That’s why we have the ability to use the ‘pitch count.’"

Peters led the league in false starts last year. Why?

"I think it’s a rhythm and you need to practice it. You need to get it timed up. When you have multiple snap counts, then that needs to be registered in the brain and you have a timer on each of those things. And then you have the silent count, where there is no snap count. So that’s timing. All these things need time to be practiced on, and we’ll have plenty of time. We do all that stuff in all of our individual drills that we do with the offensive line, we do with the snap count."

Could the false starts maybe also be because Peters doesn't have the same athleticism that he once did and he is trying to get more of a jump on the snap?

"No. I think that in this league, if you want to block these guys on the edge, you’d better get a jump on the snap, because they’re getting a jump on the snap. There’s a fine line there. You watch all the other thousand snaps that he took and he’s right on the ball. He’s right on it, while some guys are behind. That’s why he’s so good at what he does."

Any concern that Peters could be out of shape by missing OTAs?

"He’s never had an issue with conditioning. Never. When he was practicing, and we limited some of his reps last year, but even with that said, he would go harder than anybody else when you watch him in all the drill work that he does. He’s a professional and he understands what it takes. He’s been doing this for a long time.

"I would make that point. I would show some of the young players, ‘Look how he does the drill. He’s done this for 13 years, and look at the tempo of the drill. I don’t have to say a word to him. I don’t have to push him. I don’t have to say a word to him, but look how fast and hard he’s going.’ Boom, he gets his reps, and then I sit him down."

Who are some of the vocal leaders along the OL?

"Jason Peters does things by example. Also, when he says something, you can hear a pin drop. Jason Kelce is the center and needs to be that guy, and he definitely is that guy. Lane will say something leaving a meeting, like, ‘Let’s get fired up,’ or ‘go get them today.’

"We have a number of guys who will say something here or there, but these guys are professionals and they understand there really doesn’t need to be much said. Every once in a while a guy will say something here or there during a drill or if I start to get irritated, they’ll say, ‘Hey, let’s go,’ and that’s really all that needs to be said."

Lane Johnson

How did Lane’s absence hurt the team last season?

"There’s no question Lane Johnson is a good player. We’re better when he’s on the field. There’s no question about that. I think when somebody gets injured or the situation like Lane had, players have to step up, and it’s their turn. It’s their opportunity. That’s what this NFL is all about. It’s opportunity, and when you get an opportunity you have to cash in on it.

"Unfortunately, we had so many injuries at the right tackle position. I think we played five different right tackles throughout the course of the year. That’s hard. That’s hard to do that, with the continuity and all that. That’s difficult."

Thoughts on Lane at left tackle during OTAs with Peters missing?

"There’s been opportunity for me to do that before, maybe two years ago. I don’t know the dates. I wasn’t really 100 percent secure in my mind that Lane had the set lines downs, so I wasn’t really as convinced that I could do that with Lane. I am totally convinced now. I feel very good about his knowledge of the right tackle position. Right now, this is the time to do stuff like this.

"If I hadn’t felt this way I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have moved Lane over.

"This is the time to move Lane over and give him the opportunity to (get comfortable there). You can’t just move Lane over to left tackle and say, ‘OK, in two days you’re going to play left tackle.' That’s just not Lane. He needs to do it for a little bit. Once he does it a little bit, he’s got it.

"Because of (Peters’ absence), I figured this was the time to do that. I did not feel like earlier in his career I was comfortable enough to do something like this for this period of time. I feel very secure with him playing the right tackle position and understanding the right set lines, understanding all the different things we’re teaching, so therefore, I can feel good about being able to move him without distracting (from his play at right tackle). I feel like he’s got that down."

Can Lane be a good left tackle when Peters retires?

"I think Lane is a really good right tackle, and I think really he’s at the top of his game right now. I’m kind of focusing on this next season. I don’t really project out. I don’t like to do that.

"I will say this. If something happens, then we have another option, where I don’t think a lot of teams have an option at that level, or that caliber to be able to move a guy over."

Lane played well when he returned from suspension. Was that unusual?

"I was a little concerned when he got back, and there really wasn’t much time. It was a short week, and he did a great job. He got right back in there and it didn’t seem like there was a lot of rust on him. There were some things he could have done a little better, but overall I was very impressed that he got back in there, and he obviously took care of himself, working hard physically, but he did a really good job and there wasn’t much difference."

Jason Kelce

Was Kelce inconsistent last season as even Kelce himself has said?

"I think Jason is very hard on himself, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think he has very high standards for himself, and I think that nobody’s perfect. Nobody plays a perfect game every game. Nobody is going to do that. I think that there are some things in his game that he understands, and he and I have talked about them, that he has to improve on, but for him to come out and say that, you can’t blame one player for that. That’s just crazy."

What about Kelce's struggles with big, 3-4 nose tackles?

"He’s gained some weight. I think this is the heaviest he has been since I’ve been here. I think that there’s technique things we can do to help him with that, and it’s up to him to buy in and utilize those."

What about his higher than normal off-target shotgun snaps?

"I think he’s improved with that during the spring. I really mean that. I think he’s been much more accurate. I think sometimes… Have you ever snapped the ball? (Reporter – me, actually – “Nope.”)

"We take it for granted, but when you have the ball in your hand and the defense is crowding the ball as much as they can, everybody else on the line can move back and legally get to the belt buckle of the center, creating a neutral zone. The center does not have that. So for him to be able to block a man who’s crowding the ball and is probably offsides most of the time, snap the ball, and then block him efficiently, that’s a hard job. You better have somebody who has quick feet and they’re explosive.

"I think that sometimes he tries to get there so fast, but you have to take care of the ball first. So there are so many things involved with that. But that’s a hard job." 

Is there an advantage to your linemen being in the same offense for a second year?

"It’s huge. It starts with the center position. I think that Kelce and Carson have this good relationship and they work extremely well together. Because those are the two guys that are setting everything up from a run game standpoint, to the protections and all of those things. We’re one year in now and you can kind of hit the ground running and everybody is on the same page. There’s no learning curve. We’ve been through that already." 

Isaac Seumalo

What did Seumalo's rookie year do for him?

"He played in nine games. I think he started four of those games. He played tight end, he played right tackle, he played right guard, and he played left guard. He played a lot of football in his first year. I think just that experience and understanding each of those positions and the angles we need to take, he’s a very intelligent player. I love coaching players of his magnitude. They’re smart. Really all you do is coach him one time on something and he pretty much has it."

What’s Seumalo’s best position? Isn't tackle more important, so maybe he should play there?

"I think Seumalo can play tackle, get you out of a game, and you can win a game with him playing there. I think that the inside positions are more suited for him."

Would Isaac be the center if Kelce got hurt?

"You got guys like Wisniewski in there. You got Isaac getting some snaps in there. We’re assessing all these things and we’re putting it all in the bank and saying, ‘If we get in this situation, what do we do?’ We’re going to talk about all this. We’re going to have a plan for all this, and then we take what we feel are the best options available and we plug them in."

Are you comfortable with Seumalo making line calls at center?

"Absolutely. Absolutely. I think those three guys (Kelce, Wisniewski, Seumalo) I just mentioned, they’re all cut from the same cloth."

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

What is the difference with Vaitai when you compare this time last year and now?

"Night and day. Apples and oranges. His understanding of the position, his balance and body control, the way he uses his hands. This is a lot faster game than in college, and I think he was able to make that understanding and have a little more sense of urgency on his set lines, utilizing the cadence better. Little things.

"Each game he improved and advanced. I’m happy right now with the way he’s playing and what he’s doing, technique-wise.

"I think when Vaitai was in the game, when he was healthy, really advanced and improved every single week. Every week that guy got better."

Can Vaitai play left tackle?

"I think V can swing over and play left tackle too. There are certain guys where you say, ‘He can’t play left tackle.’ I think we have a couple guys who can do that."

Chance Warmack

How do you get Warmack back to the player he was coming out of Alabama?

"Chance and I had a lot of success together in the past (at Alabama). I know Chance like the back of my hand. I’m excited about getting back with him, and getting him to the level that he played at when we were together before.

"I don’t want to get into where he was at before because I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. I just know that when I was with him I know where to start, I know where his vulnerabilities are, and I know where he needs to improve."

Chance says you’re the coach for him. Why?

"I guess I just know the buttons to push in coaching him. I know the technique that he needs to perfect to be better. I guess, like anybody else here, if you had success with someone before, then you feel pretty good about it.

"I think Chance is a player who can definitely improve in certain areas of his game, and he is improving as we go through these spring practices. He is a very strong, powerful guy. Physical, explosive. There’s a lot of value to that player to this organization. That’s why we went out and got him. I think that Chance is really working his butt off. He’s doing overtime right now. He’s doing everything in his power to get back to where in his mind he needs to be."

Dillon Gordon

What is Gordon's role going forward?

"We’ll see. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re trying to figure this out right now, and what his value to the organization is, based on how he looks in these practices and what his production is."

Will he play fullback?

"He’s run some of those plays, so I think that could be an option for him."

What did you see in him to keep him on the roster all year last year?

"It’s hard to find really big guys who can change direction and have quick feet. A lot of the players we have right now played other positions. I think Kelce was a linebacker in college. Lane was a tight end, defensive end, and quarterback. Jason Peters was a tight end. He has some of those qualities about him, and he’s a very interesting player, so we’ll see. I know he has improved a lot."

Overall depth

Have you ever felt better about the depth of the line?

"No. This is a really good group."

How deep do you go?

"The majority of the players that are here right now I could tell you they’re ready to play. They could go play right now and win football games."

Overall versatility

Do versatility and depth go hand-in-hand?

"In 2013, that was an unusual year. I don’t think we had any injuries that year. I think all five players played that entire year. Maybe there was a nick here or there and a guy missed a few plays, but I don’t remember having a player in that group miss an extended period of time.

"Since that time, every year has been something, and I think that’s more normal in the NFL than anything. To be able to have depth, to be able to move people around and get them experience at those positions, when injuries do arise, then you’ve have the experience, you’ve had the players in other positions. Like last year, we had all those right tackles getting injured, we played five different players there. 

"I think then you feel, going in, a little better when something like that does happen. We have not only a number of starting NFL-level players, but they’re also very intelligent and they understand the game. To be able to move them around, I think is good."

Additional note

In hindsight, I'm realizing Stoutland did not get asked any questions about starting RG Brandon Brooks. Bad job by us (the media, as a whole) on that one. My apologies.


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