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September 05, 2021

Eagles mailbag: What is Jordan Mailata's ceiling?

In our Eagles chat on Thursday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Philly Rob: Hey Jimmy, where do you think Jordan Mailata currently ranks amongst LTs across the league? I know he only has a small sample size of games played, but curious what you think his ceiling is? Can he be an elite LT?

During the offseason, I published of series of articles on players who are either new to the Eagles, or are already with the team but we maybe didn't know a lot about them just yet. In case you missed those, generally speaking, I'm pleased with how they turned out, so give them a look, please and thank you:

Jalen Hurts • Joe Flacco • Arryn Siposs • Jack Driscoll • Jordan Mailata
Marcus Epps • Quez Watkins • Travis Fulgham • John Hightower • Davion Taylor
Kerryon Johnson • Shaun Bradley • Sua Opeta • Jalen Reagor • K'Von Wallace • Josiah Scott

For the most part, I watched every snap from the 2020 season from those 16 players above. The most fun player to watch was Mailata, and one of the reasons why was because when you watch his 2020 season chronologically, you can see how his confidence grew as the year progressed, and he just got better and better. If you were to check out any of the above player reviews because you want to feel good about a player going forward, I would read Mailata's.

For you lazy folks, the Cliff's Notes are as follows:

  1. In pass protection, he was a brick wall against power. Edge rushers who rely on power to get to the quarterback just aren't going to be very effective against him. However, Mailata did struggle at times with speed guys, and he did lead Eagles offensive linemen last season with 7 sacks allowed, though it should be noted that he also led the team's offensive tackles in snaps played.
  2. In the run game, he was a bully. If he had a chance to mash someone into the ground, he did it. Mailata may appear all nice and fun in his interviews, but there is definitely a mean streak to his game when he has a chance to put his pure size and power to good use. Some guys are big, but don't play that way. Mailata does. There are some technical things to clean up, but there is no question that he can move defenders against their will.

We reviewed him in April. Since then, Mailata has come out and had by far his best training camp of his career. He lost a significant amount weight, and should be better equipped to handle the types of speed rushers that he struggled with in 2020.

I don't want to go as far as to say that he'll be "elite," but I do think that he is poised to become a well above average starting LT in 2021, and we'll see if he can continue to get better.

Question from RKotite: Has any team ever failed to win the Superbowl because they gave away too much of the playbook in the preseason? I mean, I get competitive edge and all, but isn't this a bit overblown?

Think back to 2013. Remember Week 1 of that season, when the Eagles went into Washington, and Washington was completely unprepared to handle the tempo of Chip Kelly's offense? Eventually, opposing defenses caught on, but the Eagles definitely had an advantage for parts of that season while opposing defenses tried to catch up.

That was perhaps more of an extreme example, but the same concept applies. Do you know what the Eagles' offense is going to look like? Their defense? I think we sort of have our ideas of how they'll look, but it's hard to argue that they'll be more difficult to game plan for than, say, a Jim Schwartz defense, where you pretty knew what he was going to try to do.

Are the Eagles going to win a Super Bowl, and we'll look back and say, "It was because they didn't show anything in the preseason games?" Of course not. But that's not how every advantage should be viewed. I do think that there's a reasonable argument that the Falcons will find some challenges in game planning for the Eagles Week 1, and Nick Sirianni is right to try to preserve that mystery for as long as possible.

Question from Kephas: Could the Eagles defense surprise us this year? If you're Atlanta Week 1, how would you attack them?

My five matchups for this game are already written, and if I'm Atlanta, I'm terrified of what the interior of my offensive line looks like heading into Week 1 against Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. I'd be playing the quick passing game, trying to coax the safeties up, and then using max protect to take shots down the field, hoping to exploit whoever starts opposite Anthony Harris at safety on the back end. If that's Rodney McLoed, I'm finding out if he can run. If it's K'Von Wallace, I'm making him prove that he knows where he's supposed to be, and that he can make tackles after the catch. 

Question from Flip-a-del-phia: Double question: First, if the Eagles are 0-7 to start, who do you think gets traded? The obvious answer is Ertz or Dillard, but any other options? Second, if the Eagles are 7-0 (or similar) who would you like to see Howie go after to make a run? Position or specific player.

The second part of that question (the 7-0 part) is kind of impossible to project, not knowing what holes the team might have due to injury etc., and what other teams around the league will be sellers. But on the first part of that question (the 0-7 part), the answer is Fletcher Cox

Question from diggity: Usually when you have a new coaching staff, the new regime always wants to bring in "their guys." We saw that a lot with Schwartz and even more with Chip Kelly. Not so much with the rookie head coach and the defense coordinator. Thoughts?

We haven't seen it on offense yet, but there's evidence to suggest that they're bringing in players to fit what we think  Jonathan Gannon wants to do. They brought in a couple of ex-Vikings in Eric Wilson and Anthony Harris, and drafted a couple of versatile defenders in Milton Williams and Zech McPhearson, who I think fit his scheme.

Question from Ryan's Hope: Why the rush with salvaging Tyree Jackson's season? Couldn't they wait to unwrap him next season?

He won't take up a spot on the active roster now that he's on IR, and it didn't cost them any players, since no Eagles were claimed off of waivers.

Question from cormeagles: I think Genard Avery could make a pretty big impact this year, as the SAM role seems to suit him perfectly. Thoughts?

Avery was a guy we covered in the aforementioned player review series, but during the 2020 offseason. After watching his snaps, here's what we concluded:

Conclusion: Avery's appeal is that he can maybe be a hybrid linebacker / pass rusher. The Eagles only used him as the latter, in his limited snaps. His best usage was as a stand-up rusher in a "Joker" role. 

I don't think he can play DE at his size on normal down-distances, because he'll be a major liability against the run. And then even in obvious pass rush situations, I don't think you can line him up on the edge and expect him to get a high percentage of one-on-one wins, because his size will always limit his pass rush repertoire.

While his explosiveness is pretty clear, it'll be a challenge to find ways to get him into games in that Joker role, without telegraphing to the offense what's coming, unless he can also develop as a linebacker who can cover and play the run. 

It remains crazy to me that the team traded for a player who so badly fit Jim Schwartz's scheme, but whatever. Looking ahead, yes, I agree that the SAM role in this Gannon defense will be a far better fit for Avery's skill set. I don't know that he'll make a big impact, necessarily, but he'll be in a better position to succeed now.

Question from Hmm: Which third linebacker do you project will get the most snaps outside of Wilson and Singleton?

Yeah, that's a good question. Under Schwartz, the third linebacker was the guy who came in on run downs, like Joe Walker, Dannell Ellerbe, and most most recently, T.J. Edwards. In this new defense, the third LB could be Avery in some situations, and Edwards in others. I don't know who will get get more snaps, but I do see Edwards' snaps decreasing.

Question from RKotite: Serious question, with the rules allowing vets on the practice squad, is it possible to put Flacco there and open up a another spot on the 53 man roster?

To get Flacco on the practice squad, first you have to release him. That's gonna cost you a dead money hit of $1,560,000 this year, and then another dead money hit of $1,940,000 in 2022. Then you'd have to re-sign him back to the practice squad, assuming he'd even be interested in that, and I doubt he would. So, no, they're stuck with him for the entirety of the season. 

Question from Hi Jimmy: Hi Jimmy, any surprising Pro Bowl pick from this team? I'm talking about a player who has not been there before.

I would go with Hargrave. He had a hell of a camp, and there aren't many great DTs in the league right now.

Question from Kevin from Canada Eh: I always cheer against Dallas but rooting for Tom Brady in the season opener just feels wrong, your thoughts?

This season, if you're an Eagles fan, you're going to have to hold your nose and root for a bunch of teams to win that you normally wouldn't. For example, it would be ideal for the Eagles if the Patriots are good, since they play the Dolphins twice and the Colts once.

And then I don't know how many of you dislike the Bears, but they should be a team you root for as well, since the Giants have Chicago's first-round pick. The rooting guide will be fun to write this year.

Question from Sam: What were Howie Roseman's five best and five worst roster moves this offseason to arrive at the current 53?

I'll do three each.

Three best:

  1. Trading Carson Wentz. (This is also part of my answer for the No. 1 worst move.)
  2. The pre-draft and during-draft maneuvering, turning the sixth overall pick into DeVonta Smith and a first-round pick in 2022.
  3. Tie: Trading for a cheap, decent backup who is under your control for two seasons in Gardner Minshew. Also, maybe trading Matt Pryor for literally anything.

Three worst:

  1. Racking up $50 million in dead money in 2021, and an additional $15 million in 2022 with the releases/trades of players on bad contracts. To note, these were the right moves to make, however, it's also fair to ding him now for past mistakes.
  2. Signing Joe Flacco to a fully-guaranteed contract worth $3.5 million.
  3. Passing on trade opportunities for Zach Ertz (though in fairness, I don't know exactly what they were).

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