September 03, 2020
Because we're in a virtual world, let's run through a virtual-reality scenario.
You're a Super Bowl-winning head coach in the NFL, your young left tackle, a 2019 first-round pick, just went down with a torn biceps and the options on the table to replace him are an aging potential future Hall of Fame LT who graded out as the second-best in football last season, according to Profootballfocus.com, or Matt Pryor, who has all of 148 professional snaps under his belt, none at left tackle, and magically turned Josh Sweat into Deacon Jones on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
It's not exactly Sophie's Choice but for some reason, we're supposed to believe Doug Pederson chose Pryor over Jason Peters.
Ice to Eskimos is the easier sales pitch but the Eagles' coach gave it the ole' college try on Tuesday before practice at the NovaCare Complex.
“Matt Pryor is a guy that, once he gets all the work during the week, is a solid guard or tackle. He’s proven that in the past for us. He’ll settle in over there at the left side, and we’ll be fine,” the coach claimed in a Stuart Smalley-like affirmation.
Pederson is no idiot, though. He all of a sudden didn't forget how to coach. He sees the star quarterback with the lengthy injury history. He wants Peters at left tackle.
The explanation as to why the 38-year-old isn't is simple — the aforementioned scenario in which both options were on the table wasn't available to Pederson because Peters is playing hardball, assessing he signed on the cheap to play right guard and if the Eagles want to tap into what the organization thought was a great insurance policy, they are going to have to pay a premium to do so.
Pederson fended off the reports that Peters is refusing to move, first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane, the best he could but actions speak far louder than words here.
Sources: Jason Peters to #Eagles: Pay me more to play left tackle.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) August 30, 2020
My story on why Doug Pederson hedged on moving the future Hall of Famer back to his long time position after Andre Dillard’s injury: https://t.co/hLLp6ojrkw
“First of all, I don’t understand where some of these reports are coming from,” Pederson insisted. “Jason Peters, for us, has done an outstanding job at right guard. He’s comfortable at right guard. We have some options at left tackle that we’re working through over there.”
When pressed on whether a player refusing to move would undermine his authority, Pederson swept aside the obvious like he was Carter Hart on a good night.
“It doesn’t undermine anything,” Pederson said. “The fact [is] that Jason has really embraced a new role for him, he’s done it well. He’s playing at a high level in what we’ve asked him to do there, and he’s comfortable.”
In case you're wondering Paters has spent his last 14 years of his life playing left tackle so the spin he's "comfortable" at right guard with Aaron Donald looming in Week 2 is more disingenuous than anything you will hear from Donald Trump or Joe Biden during this election cycle.
And what about Pryor's comfort after spending the first 10 practices of camp jockeying back and forth between right guard and right tackle?
“As you guys know, it’s hard to disrupt too many positions with that offensive line,” Pederson said. “We’ve got a few more days here before we really get into regular- season week to find out who that left tackle will be. But, got some options over there.”
In addition to Pryor and Jordan Mailata, Pederson continues to bring up fourth-round rookie Jack Driscoll, who worked exclusively at right tackle in every open practice. Driscoll's teammate at Auburn, Prince Tega Wanogho, actually played left tackle in the SEC but is too raw to be thrown into the conversation just yet.
Brandon Graham, who has gone against all three young players from left end, handicapped the race.
“I like Matt Pryor because, you know, he’s a competitor," Graham explained. "I feel like he’s gotten better since he got here and, you know, I think that just getting the experience of – being out there on that island by yourself sometimes can be intimidating. But going against us every day, I feel like that’s going to prepare him enough for Game 1.”
As for Driscoll, Graham sees some positives when it comes to strength and smarts, and Mailata, the long-term project is finally getting things from a handwork perspective.
"Driscoll definitely is strong," Graham said. "Both of them, Jordan feels like he’s using his hands the best I’ve seen him. Both of them are doing really good adjusting to what coach wants. And I think that it's good competition between the two because I’m trying my best against both of them and usually when you’re thinking hard on what you gonna do, you know you’re going against some guys that’s getting better.”
No matter the spin, Occam's Razor applies here — the simplest answer is the correct answer and that's Peters at left tackle.
We’re often told that Jeffrey Lurie and Peters have a very close relationship that far exceeds the typical owner/player dynamic and whether Lurie was trying to send a message or simply "shooting from the hip" as he claimed during his Zoom State-of-the-World address last weekend, the result was an acknowledgment that players will need to embrace uncertainty and versatility in order to get through 16 games during the pandemic.
"It's inevitable there's going to be ups and downs here, but I think we have a significant roster size, we have positional flexibility,” Lurie said. “We know going in that there's going to be some unusual games where players might be playing positions they've hardly ever played."
Lurie wasn't addressing Peters specifically but the timing was interesting coming off the practice in which Sweat nearly joined the Ring of Honor because of the feckless left tackle play.
"That's part of being a professional athlete," Lurie said of moving around at a moment's notice. "We embrace it.
“... We know that in any given game, there might be one quarterback available or maybe there will be no tight ends and the wide receiver will have to play tight end, or our defensive end is going to be a defensive tackle; or a cornerback is going to have to be a receiver; our long snapper may not be there."
Just not the right guard, who is actually a left tackle, moving back to LT for the good of the team.
There's also a compromise to be had, though. The Eagles should simply guarantee the incentives in Peters' deal and turn $3 million into $6M, still a bargain for a left tackle and enough of a tweak to make Peters feel he's not playing for Walmart clearance aisle prices.
If that's not accepted by the Peters camp, it's time for the Eagles to play their own game of hardball and do what they were going to do at the start at free agency, simply walk away.
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