June 23, 2019
During spring practices, the Philadelphia media had a chance to speak with the Eagles' positional coaches. As I usually do, I camped out for the entirety of Jeff Stoutland's session, because he usually has a lot of interesting things to say about his offensive linemen.
Last week, we covered everything he had to say about rookie first-round pick Andre Dillard. Today we'll cover what he had to say about some of the other offensive linemen.
To note, Stoutland, like most positional coaches, is typically overly positive about his players, so I'll attempt to provide some balanced context after some of his quotes.
On Jason Peters’ injury battles last year, and the possibility of taking his offseason / in-season practice rest to another level this year: “I know him like the back of my hand. I think that what we did last year is exactly what we need to do (this year). I don’t think we need to (rest him) any more than that. Have you ever had an ACL? It takes (a long time) to come back from that. A lot of people will say a year, not only just physically, but mentally.
“I really do believe – I always felt this way – he’s going to be a better, more productive player this year than last year. I really do believe that."
More on Peters, and the difference between the first and second year, post-injury, from a mental perspective: “I’ve never seen anybody heal so fast. Jason Peters has been injured before, and people have always written him off, and he just keeps coming back, stronger and better than ever.
“The mindset, of, ‘Hey, is somebody going to fall on my leg? That kind of thing. I think he’s going to feel much better coming into this preseason than he did last year.”
#JimmyNote: There’s some logic to that. To be determined if Brandon Brooks will experience some of those same mental hurdles in his recovery from his torn Achilles.
On how Brandon Brooks is coming along in his return from his torn Achilles:
“He’s been in the weight room. I don’t ever comment on a player’s injury, or any of that stuff, because I’m not a doctor. I’m not a trainer. But I just love (that he is) positive, and confident. Players get banged up or injured, and they’re like, ‘That was unfortunate.’ Not one minute have I ever seen him be that way.”
#JimmyNote: A year ago at this very same assistant coaches media session, Stoutland emphatically stated that Jason Peters would be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, when at the time, that was in doubt. He did not go there with Brooks, by any stretch. Sooooo, the team either reminded Stoutland not to give away injury information because of some (non-existent) competitive advantage, or he isn’t quite as optimistic in this case, or he doesn’t want to set expectations as high with Brooks as he maybe did last year with Peters? Maybe all of the above?
On why he thinks Halapoulivaati Vaitai can transition to guard: "He’s a very powerful man. He’s very powerful with his hands and he’s very explosive. And to play that position, you have to have that Brandon Brooks mentality. You have to be able to move those big interior players, so the job description for the guard is to have that characteristic."
#JimmyNote: In case you are unaware, with an overwhelming amount of depth at OT, and not as much on the interior, the Eagles have begun cross-training Vaitai at guard as well. He got first-team reps at RG during spring practices.
On how Jordan Mailata is coming along this year: "I guess the number one thing would be that I love the way he came back, and we’re asking him to play a little bit of a different position, going over to the right side. He’s done that with a great attitude. I really like the way he has approached the whole thing. I’ve had some players here in the past that could only play on the left side, and they struggle when you put them on the right side, from a balance standpoint. There’s been no issue with that with Jordan, and I’m happy to see that."
#JimmyNote: Most of you know this, of course, but Mailata never played American football until 2018. Literally, the first game he ever appeared in was a preseason game at the NFL level last August. He solely played LT last year, but he is being cross-trained at RT this year.
On how far Mailata has come along from a football IQ standpoint in the last year: “Do you play the piano? So if I said, ‘We’re going to learn how to play the piano, today, starting today,’ and then we continue to track your progress as the year goes on, that’s where we were last year. We’re talking terminology, we’re talking footwork, we’re talking surface of blocks, using your hands, getting your head out. From the normal college guy who might play through Pop Warner, high school, he didn’t have any of that stuff, so I had to realize this as we were coaching, and literally go back to Day 1. Even the work, the effort level of every single thing you do, all those little things, and it’s been a fun process.
"I give him a lot of credit. He has made progress all last year. I mean big progress, much more than a lot of other guys because he had so much more to learn. I’m very proud of what he has done moving over to the right side and continuing to see that progress. He now knows when I explain something to him. He gets it. ‘I know what coach is explaining to me,’ whereas before I think it was a little fuzzy."
On how Matt Pryor is coming along: "Good. Matt is a unique player because he plays guard and tackle, both sides. There’s no issue there. He’s got long, long arms. His hand strength is as good as I’ve ever been around. His hand strength is so strong, that when he gets his hands on you, you’re done. These are all valuable qualities to have, and you can see that when he plays.
"I’m happy with his progress, but he’s at the point now where it’s like, ‘Let’s go, it’s time.’ If we insert you in the game, you’re in the game for us… that level of football. I’m happy with his progress. I can’t wait to see him in the preseason."
#JimmyNote: It’s noteworthy that Stoutland and the Eagles are giving Vaitai first crack at RG over Pryor. It’s a completely new position for Vaitai, while Pryor has been training at guard with the team for a year, and should theoretically have the upper hand. Pryor looked really good in training camp last year, and then not so good in the preseason games, so it’s not a surprise that Stoutland said he wants to see how he looks in games, as opposed to practice.
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