Leading up to training camp, we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team. In case you've missed any of the previous positional groups, you can catch up here.
TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS:
QB | RB | WR | TE
Today we'll look at the offensive tackles:
*Halapoulivaati Vaitai is also in the mix here, but we'll cover him in the interior OL post.
In 2017, at the age of 35, there was a sentiment that Jason Peters was playing like the best left tackle in the game before he tore his ACL. In 2018, his quality of play dipped, and he missed roughly 20 percent of the team's offensive snaps. He started all 18 games (16 regular season, 2 playoffs), but he missed at least one snap in 11 of them. As such, the thinking was that Peters was a liability because he couldn't finish games, a sentiment that I do agree with. As we've examined in the past, the following is Peters' full slate of snap counts in 2018:
|71 of 72
|8 of 79
|82 of 82
|78 of 78
|55 of 59
|38 of 71
|61 of 67
|43 of 62
|62 of 62
|51 of 51
|65 of 65
|70 of 75
|52 of 52
|61 of 64
|5 of 82
|66 of 71
|68 of 68
|37 of 51
|973 of 1211
While he missed at least one snap in 11 of 18 games, he also played at least 90 percent of the snaps in 13 of 18 games. He played at least half the snaps in all but two games, as he was lost early in both the Buccaneers and Texans games.
Coming off the ACL tear at the age of 36, Peters admitted that it was still hurting him during the season. He suffered an assortment of other injuries, including a quad injury, which may have occurred because he was favoring one leg over the other, which is common for players coming off major surgery.
Will Peters' penchant for coming out of games accelerate at the age of 37, or will it stabilize a bit another year removed from his ACL surgery? When he was able to play, while certainly not the dominant player he once was, Peters was still an above average left tackle in a league that generally doesn't have great offensive line play.
As we've noted repeatedly around here often, Johnson was the best offensive tackle in the NFL in 2017. Not just right tackle. Best tackle, period. A quick list of edge rushers who primarily rushed against Johnson that season: Ryan Kerrigan twice, Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul twice, Joey Bosa, Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, Michael Bennett, and Khalil Mack.
Johnson shut them all out, sack-wise. At one point during that season, he rhetorically asked, "Who else am I going to see, Godzilla out there?"
In 2018, Johnson struggled at times early in the season, notably against the Titans and Vikings. He played the 2018 through an assortment of injuries, including a painful MCL sprain. Still, he made his second straight (deserved) Pro Bowl.
Now healthy, Johnson should be back to dominating in 2019.
Dillard, of course, was the Eagles' first-round draft pick, and he didn't come cheaply, as Howie Roseman traded a couple of picks to move up a few spots to secure their left tackle of the future.
In spring practices, Dillard worked solely at left tackle, which is the obvious move, seeing as that's where the Eagles hope he'll be a mainstay over the next decade. They want to get him as many reps there as they can, and it would be a waste of time and energy trying to cross-train him for short-term purposes.
As far as Dillard's role in 2020 goes, that feels very straightforward. He'll be Peters' backup. Given Peters' age and injury concerns, Dillard will likely be needed at some point this season, and if a situation arises in which Dillard is immediately better than Peters, then the Eagles will have a difficult decision to make on who plays when both guys are healthy.
A year after Mailata, a size-athleticism freak, began learning how to play left tackle from scratch, the Eagles are putting more on his plate this offseason, getting him acclimated to right tackle as well. With Halapoulivaati Vaitai likely moving on in free agency next offseason, Mailata could soon be filling Vaitai's role as the team's swing tackle.
He might also be the team's first player off the bench at right tackle in 2019, depending on whether or not Vaitai is already in the lineup at RG or not. (We'll go into more depth on Vaitai in the interior OL section.)
Mailata's play in the preseason games last year was impressive, given his extreme lack of experience playing the sport. It will be interesting to see his evolution in 2019.
Burwell has actually appeared in 17 career games, mostly on special teams with the then-San Diego Chargers. He should at least be a competent player in camp and in the preseason games, but has very little chance of making the team.
Bates is an undrafted rookie free agent. He started as a redshirt freshman at Penn State, both at LG and LT. In his sophomore season, he started eight games at LT. In his junior year, he started nine games at LT and three at RT. I would praise that versatility, but there's little chance Bates will be able to play OT in the pros, as he has 32½" T-Rex arms. His future in the NFL will probably be as an interior offensive lineman, as he does possess pretty good athletic measurables. In spring practices, the Eagles used him mostly on the edge, but he played some on the interior as well.
His best chance of making it in the pros will be if he can carve out a spot on the practice squad, where he'll have an opportunity to develop his game, maybe at center.
The Eagles are absolutely loaded at offensive tackle, both with seasoned vets and intriguing youth, in a league where most teams struggle to find two decent players.
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