Training camp previews
QB | RB
Today we'll skip over the wide receivers (I'm still gathering info for an Alshon update), and cover the offensive tackles.
|OT ||1 ||2 ||3 |
|LT ||Andre Dillard ||Jordan Mailata ||Prince Tega Wanogho |
|RT ||Lane Johnson || Jack Driscoll|| |
Including the Eagles' loss in the playoffs to the Seahawks, Johnson missed five games last season, and his absence was felt, most notably in the Eagles' regular season matchup against the Seahawks, when Andre Dillard filled in disastrously for him at right tackle.
Johnson's importance to the team in 2020 cannot be undersold. When the Eagles lost Pro Bowl RG Brandon Brooks for the season with a torn Achilles, the argument could be made that the line could weather that kind of loss because Brooks plays in between a pair of players in Johnson and Jason Kelce, who are both arguably the best players at their respective positions in the NFL. Take Johnson out of the equation as well, and the Eagles are starting two backups on the right side of the line.
The feeling here is that Johnson is the second-most important player on this team heading into 2020.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Eagles are scheduled to be more the $50 million over the salary cap in 2021.
As we noted in our Eagles dumpster fire piece, when the new collective bargaining agreement was reached, there weren't more than a handful of teams around the league happier about it than the Eagles, who could confidently rely on a substantial salary cap rise to offset their high 2021 cap number. However, because it's not exactly easy for NFL front offices to predict a global pandemic, the cap is unlikely to rise much, if at all, next offseason, as a result of lost revenues.
As such, the Eagles are going to have to roll over as much of their remaining 2020 cap space as possible, which means that there won't be any big-name, big-money players walking through the door the rest of this offseason. No Jadeveon Clowney. Jamal Adams. No Yannick Ngakoue. Forget it.
That premise may also now extend to Jason Peters as well, meaning that the Eagles may be forced to sink or swim with Dillard as their starting left tackle in 2020. We'll see.
Dillard had a disappointing rookie season, as we showed in detail back in May. He was obviously bad in his first two starts, against the Vikings and Cowboys. He played better in subsequent matchups against the Bills and Bears (though he still gave up a bad sack in each of those two games), and finally, as noted above, he was a wreck filling in for Johnson at RT against the Seahawks.
Dillard's biggest weakness in 2019 was obvious, as he was often overwhelmed by power rushers. We can confirm that he has bulked up some this offseason, but a few extra pounds isn't going to deter the league's best rushers. The key is, did he add functional strength?
The Eagles invested heavily in Dillard last year, trading up in the first round to secure a player they thought could be the heir apparent to Peters, and start at LT for the foreseeable future. Dillard could certainly figure things out. He has excellent athleticism, and great feet. That's a good start. But for now, LT is the most concerning position on the roster.
If Lane Johnson tore an ACL today, Driscoll would probably be thought of by some as his likely replacement at RT this season. However, because Driscoll is going to be given the opportunity to compete with Matt Pryor for the starting RG spot (and because there are good waves today and low tide is at 7:00 a.m.), we'll hold off on covering Driscoll a little more deeply until the interior offensive line section.
Mailata showed very encouraging signs in preseason games as a rookie at LT in 2018, when he had former NFL offensive linemen fawning over his combination of size and athleticism, as well as his rapid adaption to a game that he had never played. In 2019, the Eagles started cross-training Mailata at RT, and progression came slowly. Mailata had some good moments in the preseason, but his hype train began to slow down some.
His 2019 season ended when he went on injured reserve in September with a back injury.
"Obviously, everyone thinks that my progression halted when I got put on IR, but mentally it didn't. I was in every classroom meeting, I was at every walk-through, I was at every practice taking mental reps, and trying to progress my mental game further, and I feel like that's what happened, especially them putting me at right tackle this year," Mailata said on locker room cleanout day after the Eagles' playoff loss to Seattle. "I'm very comfortable on the left, but the right side was very hard."
How hard was it, Jordan?
"It's like wiping your backside with your other hand... It's not going to be clean, but it gets the job done."
If Mailata is going to have a role in the NFL, the time is now, especially with Halapoulivaati Vaitai moving on in free agency. He has has to prove that he can be a reliable backup on at least one side of the line, while also staying healthy. Anything more should be viewed as a bonus.
Prince Tega Wanogho
Prior to the start of the 2019 season, some were projecting Wanogho as a possible first round pick. Leading up to the 2020 Senior Bowl, Wanogho's knee was red-flagged, and he was not allowed to participate. He clearly fell in the draft because he is a medical risk, but if healthy, he could be a steal at the end of the sixth round.
As we noted during our NFL player comparison series, much has been exaggerated about Wanogho as a prospect heading into the NFL, most notably his size, and the idea that he has extensive experience at LT and RT. The reality is that he's actually a little undersized for a tackle, and his playing experience at Auburn was almost solely at left tackle.
Because of the COVID-shortened offseason, the Eagles are not planning on cross-training their rookies at multiple positions. As such, they're likely going to have to pick a side for Wanogho to play, with LT being the likely choice.
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