July 07, 2021
Leading up to the start of training camp (basically whenever there isn't other news to cover), we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team. Today we'll look at the guards.
Previous training camp previews
Normally, we'd just lump all the interior offensive linemen into one article, but there are five centers on the roster presently, so we'll give them their own post. Here's the depth chart at guard:
|LG||Isaac Seumalo||Nate Herbig||Sua Opeta|
|RG||Brandon Brooks||Matt Pryor||Kayode Awosika|
In June of 2020, Brooks tore his Achilles, ending his season before it ever got underway. It was his third major injury in an 18-month span:
He was able to return from his first torn Achilles in time for the start of the 2019 regular season, an extremely impressive feat for a 340-pound man. On his most recent Achilles recovery, he was able to practice with the team during the leadup to the Eagles' Week 17 tank game against Washington. And then in addition to overcoming major injuries and playing at a high level, Brooks has also heroically battled anxiety and become one of the team leaders in the locker room. So if there's someone who can overcome a second ruptured Achilles, it's him.
Unlike in 2019, Brooks will be ready for the start of 2021 training camp.
The Eagles dangled Brooks as trade bait this offseason, which is something that Brooks himself even acknowledged. That makes sense. He'll turn 32 in August on a team that is in the midst of a rebuild. If Brooks plays well and the Eagles are sellers at the trade deadline, he could perhaps help a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Seumalo had some rough moments early in his career, but has since settled in and become a solid-though-unspectacular starting LG. One interesting debate that I've seen emerge this offseason, however, is whether Seumalo's starting job is set in stone.
Jason Kelce will start at C, and Brooks will start at RG. The team also of course drafted guard-center versatile Landon Dickerson with the 37th overall pick. If Dickerson's ACL recovery goes well, and he somehow proves to be better than Seumalo, there's a legitimate argument that the best lineup, at least in 2021, would be for Dickerson to start at LG, with Seumalo serving as the primary backup at all three interior offensive line spots.
That's probably not realistic. To begin, it'll be difficult for Dickerson to prove that he should start immediately, given that he will almost certainly not be a full participant during training camp. But also, with Brooks' time in Philly likely winding down and Kelce's retirement on the horizon, the Eagles are going to need both Seumalo and Dickerson to start in 2022, and potentially beyond. The wisest path is probably to continue to start Seumalo at LG, while not rushing Dickerson into action prematurely.
Herbig appeared in 15 games in 2020, started 12, and played reasonably well, ping-ponging back and forth between RG and LG. His starts:
• Weeks 1 and 2: RG
• Weeks 3, 4, 5, and 6: LG
• Week 7: RG
• Week 8: LG
• Weeks 14, 15, 16, and 17: RG
In total, Herbig played 891 snaps, which was second only to Kelce. In addition to getting that valuable experience at both guard spots, Herbig has also worked out at center, and he's still very young, as he'll turn 23 on Saturday.
While perhaps not an ideal starter because of his athletic limitations, Herbig showed that he can capably fill in at multiple interior O-line spots, and at a minimum can be a long-term depth player.
Over the first two years of his career, Pryor mostly worked at RG and RT. He started two games for the Eagles in 2019, both against the Seahawks, at RG. He kicked out to RT in one of those Seahawks games after Andre Dillard had a nightmarish first half.
In 2020, Pryor had a weird year, in that he became way too important of a player for this team. Let's recap his 2020 season:
• During the 2020 offseason, after Brooks got hurt most penciled in Pryor as the new starter at RG, barring a roster addition.
• The Eagles signed Jason Peters to play RG. Pryor went back to the bench on the depth chart.
• Dillard, the presumed starter at LT, injured his biceps and his season was over. Jason Peters subsequently refused to move to LT to replace Dillard without a bump in pay. In the meantime, Pryor got the first crack at playing LT with the first team offense in practice.
• In a scrimmage setting during training camp at Lincoln Financial Field, Pryor got absolutely wrecked all day by Josh Sweat. It was essentially the “Winston Justice game” equivalent of a training camp practice. Peters must've watched that unfold like Mr. Burns finger-tenting and remarking "Ex-cel-lent."
• The Eagles eventually paid Peters, and he went back to LT. In Week 1, Nate Herbig started at RG, and Jack Driscoll started at RT. During the game, Driscoll got hurt, and Jordan Mailata, who is more comfortable at LT than he is at RT, filled in. Pryor, who is more comfortable at RT than he is at LT, stayed on the bench. In other words, Pryor was, at best, the tenth lineman in the pecking order. He got leapfrogged by Herbig, Driscoll, and Mailata.
• Ultimately, however, due to an absurd number of injuries along the offensive line, he played in 15 games in 2020, starting 10 (6 at RG, 4 at RT).
There are at least nine players of greater importance than Pryor on the depth chart presently. They are Lane Johnson, Brooks, Kelce, Seumalo, Mailata, Dillard, Dickerson, Driscoll, and Herbig. Beyond those nine players, there's also Sua Opeta, who wasn't bad in his two starts, and Le'Raven Clark, another guard-tackle versatile player that the team can stash on the PUP list for a while and activate him when necessary (after six weeks).
Pryor probably has an uphill climb to make the roster, and could be trade bait (obviously for a meager return).
We actually did a deep-dive on Opeta's 2020 season (lol). One of the silver linings of so many offensive linemen going down last season was that we got to see some of the young reserves play for the first time. Mailata and Herbig in particular played far more than anyone would have anticipated, and both players helped themselves in terms of potentially important roles going forward. I believe that Opeta played well enough in his two-plus games to warrant some optimism as well.
But again, as we noted above with Pryor, there are a slew of offensive linemen for Opeta to contend with, and he may need an injury or two to occur to make the team. The bet here is that if the Eagles waive Opeta, someone will snatch him up.
After the Eagles waived both QB Jamie Newman and WR Trevon Grimes, the next highest-rated undrafted free agent the Eagles signed this offseason was Awosika.
Awosika played tackle for the University of Buffalo, but at 6'3, 312, he is moving to guard at the next level. He played on both sides of the line at Buffalo, and he's a masher in the run game. Running back Jaret Patterson had 3,884 rushing yards his last three seasons at Buffalo, and Awoskia was a part of his success:
Awoskia got $112,500 in guaranteed money from the Eagles, per Dave Zangaro, which makes him a great bet for the practice squad.
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