April 15, 2021
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 take a look at one of the Eagles' 2020 rookies, OT Jack Driscoll.
Previous "Eagles player review" breakdowns
The Eagles selected Driscoll in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In college, at two different schools, Driscoll played both at left guard (UMass) and right tackle (Auburn).
In a normal year, the Eagles might have cross-trained Driscoll at tackle and guard (and maybe even center), but he mostly focused on tackle during the COVID-shortened offseason last summer. As a rookie, he appeared in 11 games, starting four, and he played a total of 300 offensive snaps before landing on season-ending injured reserve with a sprained MCL. His snap counts:
|17||Football Team||0 (IR)|
|TOTAL||11 games, 4 starts||300|
I didn't bother trying to find Driscoll's smattering of snaps in the Eagles' games against the Rams, Bengals, Giants, Browns and Seahawks, but I did watch all of his snaps against the the Football Team, 49ers, Steelers, Ravens, Packers, and Saints.
• Football Team: If you'll recall, Lane Johnson was a late scratch from this game, forcing Driscoll to start Week 1 against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The Eagles didn’t give Driscoll a lot of help, possibly because they already had their game plan installed already, and Driscoll was tasked with his share of one-on-one blocking assignments against a mix of Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Anderson, Montez Sweat, and some reps against interior guys like Jonathan Allen. He held up better than anyone could have reasonably expected, and clearly outplayed the LT in that game, Jason Peters.
He did have to leave this game early, at the end of the third quarter, giving way to Jordan Mailata.
• 49ers: Driscoll came into the game in relief of Johnson on the second drive, and then again later in the game. He gave up a sack, and a QB hit that resulted in an INT, and while you would think that those two plays would be enough to call it a bad performance on just 27 snaps, he really wasn't that bad. We'll get to those two plays in a minute.
• Steelers: Driscoll came into the game in relief of Johnson once again, and was put into a situation in which he was tasked with blocking T.J. Watt with a deficit and the Steelers' pass rushers being able to pin their ears back and go after the quarterback. That's normally a recipe for disaster, but Driscoll was excellent in his matchups against Watt. If there's one game to watch to get excited about Driscoll, this one was it.
• Ravens: This was Driscoll's second start. He had another strong day in pass protection, mostly against Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee, but like his first start against Washington, he had to leave the game early, this time in the fourth quarter.
• Packers: This was Driscoll's third start. His performance wasn't as encouraging as his games against the Steelers and Ravens. He mostly saw Za'Darius Smith, with some Rashan Gary and Preston Smith sprinkled in. He struggled in this game, and gave up a pressure that led to an INT.
• Saints: Driscoll's final start of the season. He saw a steady diet of Cameron Jordan. The Eagles moved the pocket a lot, and got Hurts on the move, so there weren’t a ton of traditional one-on-one opportunities for Jordan vs. Driscoll, but when there were, Driscoll mostly did a good job. Driscoll reportedly gutted out an MCL injury during this game, and played every snap, before landing on IR thereafter.
Driscoll is very clearly better when protecting the quarterback than he is in the run game. To begin, Driscoll performed well at the Combine in his athleticism metrics, but is undersized relative to other offensive tackles:
Because he is only 6'5 with only 33" arms, the belief here was that Driscoll's likely best spot in the NFL would be at guard. After watching him play, the Eagles were probably right to have him play tackle initially.
His athleticism shows on the field. He's quick with his kick slide, he is always in good position to block his man, and he is able to mirror/match his opponent because he has quick feet. He also understands angles, and while he doesn't throw a vicious punch, his hands are active.
For example, here he is protecting one-on-one against Montez Sweat on a TD throw Week 1.
Similarly, his work against T.J. Watt Week 5 in Pittsburgh was outstanding, as noted above. Watt is more of a speed rusher than a power guy, and Driscoll handled him.
It's anchoring against power that will be the concern for Driscoll if he is to stay at OT. Opponents were occasionally able to put Driscoll on roller skates on power rushes, like here against Jonathan Allen Week 1:
To be clear though, Driscoll is not egregiously bad against power like Andre Dillard was as a rookie. He's just better against speed than he is against power.
As far as recognition goes, I would give him mixed reviews. We had Driscoll down for two sacks on the 2020 season, and one of them came on a play in which he should have taken the inside rusher instead of the blitzing defensive back coming from the outside.
That was a lesson not learned later in the season on a similar play, but the quarterback was able to get rid of the ball.
But there were positives in the recognition area. Generally speaking, he did a nice job recognizing stunts, and did well to pass off his man to the RG when appropriate, which was particularly noteworthy, given that he played with three different RGs in his four starts, one of whom was Jamon Brown.
His highlight on the season in the recognition department was on a TD against the Steelers. Driscoll recognized that Matt Pryor had mistakenly passed off his man, and Driscoll was left to block two rushers. He was able to get enough of both rushers, giving the quarterback just enough time to toss the TD pass.
As a run blocker, Driscoll needs a lot of work, or perhaps better stated, he simply needs to get a lot stronger. He gets virtually no movement whatsoever at the line of scrimmage. When he stalemates with his opponent, consider that a win.
It's not all bad, though. As noted in the pass pro section, Driscoll has nimble feet, so he's useful as a puller and when asked to get to the second or third levels of the defense. Here he is pulling:
And while the Eagles are never going to call a QB sneak behind Driscoll, a QB sneak play stood out in terms of pointing out his athleticism. Watch his burst at the snap, as he's able to fire off the line of scrimmage and at least get in between the ball and the inside shoulder of the DT.
In addition to concerns about anchoring against power, and the inability to move defenders in the run game, I'm sure the Eagles would like to see Driscoll play with more aggression. There were far too many times on tape in which Driscoll didn't play through the whistle.
It cost the Eagles on one particular play against the 49ers. Driscoll did a nice job blocking his man for five-plus seconds, but he presumably didn't realize that Carson Wentz was running around like a chicken with his head cut off, and Driscoll stopped blocking his guy, who hit Wentz, causing an interception.
I would put that play more on Wentz, but Driscoll has to learn to learn to never stop on a play. Here's another example on a run by Hurts. It was like, "Oh he's still running? Oops, maybe I should continue to block then."
Jeff Stoutland will have to find a way to coax more aggression out of Driscoll.
And then of course there's the injuries. Driscoll had to come out of two starts, and he was shut down for the season after another start. That's alarming. The Eagles will hope that's an anomaly, and not a trend.
We showed more negative plays than positive ones above, but overall I came away encouraged by what I saw of Driscoll's games in 2020, since he's good at the thing that matters most, which is pass protection. At a minimum, he showed way more as a rookie in 2020 than Dillard did in 2019.
However, where will the Eagles play Driscoll going forward?
• If you keep him at OT, that's fine, but he'll always be at a disadvantage because of his lack of ideal length.
• If he plays guard, he has a ways to go before he'll give you anything as a run blocker. He probably can't play guard, at least as a starter, without substantially added strength.
• Maybe he can play center? His football IQ seemed good as a rookie, and he didn't shrivel when presented with difficult assignments.
Perhaps the answer is that the Eagles will try to develop him into a "jack of all trades," pardon the pun, who can come off the bench and play any position, if necessary. Those kinds of players can be very valuable.
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