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May 02, 2020

Eagles new player (or current player with new role) series: Andre Dillard edition

Eagles NFL
157_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Andre_Dillard_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles LT Andre Dillard

During the offseason, we'll be taking a look at a handful of players who are either new to the Philadelphia Eagles, or are already with the team but we perhaps don't know a lot about them just yet.

Today we'll look at second-year OT Andre Dillard.

Previous "Eagles new player series" breakdowns

Matt Pryor | Genard Avery | Jatavis Brown

We'll also get to guys like Darius Slay, Javon Hargrave, Will Parks, Nickell Robey-Coleman, T.J. Edwards, Jalen Mills (in a safety role), Avonte Maddox (as an outside corner), Josh Sweat, and others, if you have requests. 

The common perception is that Dillard played well when he was at his normal position at LT in 2019, but faltered when he was asked to play at RT against the Seahawks. The reality is that he was also bad at LT. 

Dillard got significant playing time in five games:

 Andre DillardSnaps 
 Seahawks (at RT)34 

Despite only playing a total 343 snaps on the season (183 of which were pass blocking snaps), Dillard led the team in sacks allowed:

Player *Sacks allowed *Pass blocking snaps 
 Andre Dillard6.5 183 
 Jason Peters602 
 Isaac Seumalo2.5 763 
 Halapoulivaati Vaitai331 
 Jay AjayiN/A 
 Jordan Howard44 
 Dallas Goedert65 
 Miles Sanders81 
 Lane Johnson454 
 Jason Kelce763 

*Pass blocking snaps via ProFootballFocus, sacks-allowed tally via PhillyVoice.

Extrapolate those 6.5 sacks over a season in which he plays every snap (763 pass blocking snaps), and it's 27 sacks allowed.

Dillard's two worst games at LT were against the Vikings and Cowboys. He improved against the Bills and Bears, though he was probably less exposed in Buffalo because high winds called for a run-heavy game plan, and a big early lead against the Bears allowed Doug Pederson to call a conservative game. And even then, he gave up a bad sack in each of those two games.

His worst game was when he started at RT for Lane Johnson against the Seahawks. Yes, he was playing on a side he was unfamiliar with, but in an ideal world, he would have stepped up, gritted it out, and produced at least a competent performance. Instead, he was overwhelmed, and benched at halftime. Prior to that game, Dillard seemed to know that it wasn't going to go well, and it perhaps became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Eagles drafted Dillard because they loved his athleticism, which is indeed quite impressive. 

It was easy to see in training camp that he could move. Also in training camp, it was hard to miss an emotional outburst that occurred after a practice in which he and Derek Barnett got into a scrap. According to a source, that was only one of multiple such emotional moments that occurred during practice last season.

Dillard's biggest flaw as a rookie, by far, was his inability to anchor against power. If it doesn't get fixed, and opposing pass rushers know they can just bull rush him into the quarterback, it will likely be a fatal flaw for his NFL career.

We looked at all five of Dillard's games in 2019, and in the Twitter thread below, you'll see the worst moments. Normally, we'd try to balance out the bad with some good, but that's hard to do for a player who was on pace to allow 27 sacks in a full season.

We've reported multiple times here that the Eagles have serious concerns about turning over the starting LT job to Dillard. On Thursday, Derrick Gunn of NBC Philly took it a step further, when he indicated in a television appearance that Jason Peters would be back in 2020, a move that would put Dillard back in an understudy role for another season (h/t Brandon Gowton on the transcription).

“Now, the plan was for last year’s first-round pick, Andre Dillard, to take over at left tackle but maybe they’re re-thinking that now. So, could the Birds be bringing back Peters in a backup role?

Well, first of all, if Jason Peters comes back here, he’s not coming back here as a backup. I do know for a fact that Jason Peters wants to be back in Philadelphia, the Eagles want Jason Peters here. It’s only a matter of time before they get something done.

Now, the plan was for Dillard to hopefully be their starting left tackle but he did not progress as quickly as the Eagles had hoped he would. So, you get Peters back here for at least one more year, Dillard is his understudy for one more year, learning under a future Hall of Famer, but by 2021 Andre Dillard had better be ready to protect Carson Wentz’s blindside.”

There are a couple different ways of looking at that decision, should the Eagles bring Peters back. On the one hand, at some point you have to see what you have in the younger player. The longer Dillard rides the bench, the longer it'll be for him to get acclimated to the NFL.

On the other hand, the Eagles think they are Super Bowl contenders in 2020. If they fully commit to Dillard at LT and it doesn't go well, it's not exactly a position you can easily fix on the fly. If Dillard is anywhere near as bad as he was as a rookie, you're changing your offense to account for a severe liability at LT.

For the last two decades, dating back to the days of Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, Eagles fans/media/etc. have been treated to some pretty stellar play from their offensive tackles. Peters has been the team's starting left tackle for the last 10 years, if you don't include the disastrous 2012 season, which was partly caused because Peters was out with a torn Achilles. 

Perhaps because many of us forget what bad offensive tackle play looks like, there's a perception that Peters had a bad season in 2019. I'll disagree there.

Yes, Peters' false starts are annoying (and even those are a bit overstated -- he had six of them), and you can count on him exiting about half dozen games at some point along the way, but when he played, Peters had a good season in 2019, at least in comparison to his peers. Obviously, he is not nearly the same player that he was when he was arguably the best at his position in the game. 

But more importantly than the false starts and the early in-game exits, Peters mostly did a good job protecting Carson Wentz, while Dillard obviously did not.

Signing Peters back would cost money against the cap, and it would relegate a player that cost hefty draft resources to the bench. Neither is ideal, clearly, but the Eagles will have to decide if bringing Peters back will prevent the season from being wrecked if Dillard isn't a viable replacement by September.

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