August 26, 2020
Day 9 of Philadelphia Eagles training camp is in the books, and Wednesday was a lively practice, as the Birds had their second of two "tackling to the ground" days. Let's get right to the notes.
• This offseason, we took an in-depth look at all of Andre Dillard's snaps on the 2019 season, and came away from the exercise surprised at how bad his rookie season was. In case you missed that, here you go:
This offseason, we're looking at a handful of Eagles players who are either new, or are already with the team, but we perhaps don't know a lot about them just yet due to limited action. Here we'll cover LT Andre Dillard. 🔥 (Thread and article) https://t.co/RDQwGkTirj— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) May 2, 2020
As we noted in that piece, 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.
Dillard put on added muscle this offseason, which no doubt helps, but isn't always the same as adding functional strength that will translate to offensive tackle movements.
In a team session today, Joe Ostman wrecked Dillard on a bull rush. Ostman got under Dillard, stood him up and sent him falling back into Carson Wentz's legs. Wentz's left knee bent awkwardly from the impact as he went to the ground. (He's fine. He bounced right back up and finished practice with no issues.)
In my view, while not the first time Dillard has given up substantial ground against a bull rush this summer, it was the most concerning play of the entire camp. Not to take anything away from Ostman, who has had a good camp and has put himself in a great position to make the team, but we're not exactly talking about a star edge rusher here. What's going to happen when Dillard has to face Chase Young or Nick Bosa for four quarters?
The most concerning area of the roster isn't linebacker, or the secondary, or wide receiver. It's left tackle, and I don't think (fill in the whatever the second-most concerning thing is) is even close.
• Dillard's backup at LT so far has been Jordan Mailata, who has not had a good camp. Asked how Mailata is progressing Wednesday morning, Doug Pederson gave a concerning answer (at least in my view, knowing how to decode Doug's vernacular over the last half decade or so).
"Mailata is doing some good things," Pederson said. "He flashes from time to time. Again, keeping in mind that football is relatively new to him. He doesn't have a lot of game experience, obviously, outside of preseason games in the past, but is doing a really good job for us there at left tackle, as well, and could potentially be someone that maybe could swing from left to right if need be."
That quote might sound complimentary. It's not. There are three issues there:
At some point, the Eagles are going to decide if they need to give Jason Peters a few reps at LT, to sort of wake up his muscle memory there, in case they need him.
• As long as we're getting off to a super-negative start, let's go ahead and note that Genard Avery was carted off today with what appeared to be a right knee injury. He was rushing the passer up the middle, went down, and immediately looked to be in a lot of pain.
Avery had his head in his hands as trainers looked him over on the field, before being taken away on the cart, while practice continued. Cre'Von LeBlanc and Jake Elliott ran over to offer their support on Avery's way off the field.
• In better news, the wide receivers just continue to make plays.
DeSean Jackson had a "maintenance day."
• I wouldn't mistake the receivers making plays with the secondary playing poorly. I thought the secondary had a strong day as well today.
• The running backs made some nice plays today as well, after not having shown much through the first eight practices.
• As we noted above, Ostman has had a good camp. So has rookie seventh round pick Casey Toohill. I'm beginning to think the Eagles will keep both of them, which would mean six defensive ends.
In 1-on-1 drills, the Eagles had Ostman rushing against interior offensive linemen, which makes sense if the Eagles are intent on using Ostman in a Joker role.
• If the Eagles do indeed keep six defensive ends, where do they go light? Could they keep just three running backs initially? Two tight ends? Nine offensive linemen? In doing 53-man roster projections, I find that some years I'll have 55 or 56 players I would want to keep, and it's difficult choosing which guys to cut. Other years, there might only be like 49 or 50 guys I definitely want to keep, and I reluctantly keep three or four guys who haven't shown much.
This year I think it's the former, which can sometimes indicate a deep roster. I don't know if it's a deep roster as much as it is that the Eagles have a lot of rookies with some potential, but they're not necessarily deep in terms of player who will help this season.