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December 30, 2022

Mailbag: What might the Eagles' offensive line configuration look like on Sunday against the Saints?

Eagles NFL
123022AndreDillard Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles backup LT Andre Dillard

Earlier this week, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This will be Part I of a two-part mailbag.

Question from @AlexBloom_05: Assuming Lane Johnson misses an extended period, would you rather play Jordan Mailata at LT and Jack Driscoll at RT, or Andre Dillard at LT and Mailata at RT? What combo gives the Eagles the best chance to win? And do you need to name a combo right away and stick with it to ensure some game-ready reps for January?

My sense is that they're going to play Dillard at LT and Mailata at RT. I believe that they will opt for putting their "five best linemen" on the field, and in their minds that will include Dillard over Driscoll. But beyond the starters, the Eagles also have to consider who backs up whom at each spot. Driscoll has more versatility than Dillard, so he would give the Eagles more "one-for-one" in-game replacement options should someone else go down against the Saints. 

As for the continuity aspect of your question, these guys have all been with the team for years. I don't think that will be a concern, no matter what the Eagles ultimately decide.

Question from @Eagles_Addict: Two-part question: Do you think Lane Johnson can play through his injury? And given the Eagles’ overall record for when Lane plays vs. when he doesn’t, do you give much weight to that stat for this team?

I've never suffered a sports hernia, but my understanding is that it sucks trying to play through them. The good news is that if the Eagles can lock down the 1 seed, Lane will have had a four-week-plus gap in between when he suffered the injury (December 24th) and the first game that he would play (either January 21 or 22).

As for the Eagles' record when Lane can't play, historically it's not great. Going back to the start of the Doug Pederson era, when Lane started to become an elite player, here are the Eagles' records without him.

• 2016: 2-8 
• 2017: 1-0
• 2018: 0-1
• 2019: 3-1 (0-1 in the playoffs)
• 2020: 2-7
• 2021: 1-3

So, you know, 9-21. #Math.

His importance to the team cannot be overstated. The Eagles put him on an island and say, "OK, Lane, go block (fill in the elite pass rusher) with no help for four quarters," and he usually just completely eliminates that player. It's really not that much different than if you told a cornerback, "Go cover their best receiver all day," and that corner literally never gave up a touchdown pass. 

Without Lane, now you're giving help to the RT, whether you're keeping a back in to help in pass pro, or you're chipping with the TE, or whatever. And you still might give up some plays to that guy that otherwise wouldn't have happened if Lane were playing. 

Some years the Eagles have good offensive line depth, and some years they don't. This year I believe that they have some of the best offensive line depth in the NFL. Should they be able to beat a 6-9 Saints team with Driscoll or Dillard in the lineup instead of Lane? Of course! It's a loaded roster and they're much better team.

It's against teams like the Cowboys (Micah Parsons) or 49ers (Nick Bosa) where the proposition of playing without Lane becomes a lot more worrisome.

Question from TJ_Neer: How many turkey legs on the feastin’ meter would the Eagles' defensive line get against the Eagles' offensive line?

Ha, if I were a reporter covering another team and I were writing a "five matchups" column about the Eagles, I would probably start with how good the offensive line is. It's probably the team's biggest strength on a roster full of elite positional groups. Obviously, the Eagles' defensive line is also awesome, so it wouldn't be zero turkey legs or anything like that. I'd maybe identify Josh Sweat as a potential headache for Mailata, or Hargrave against Dickerson, but the Eagles don't have any holes on their line, unlike pretty much every other team in the NFL. Maybe two or three turkey legs.

Question from JohnnyAppleC22: What is the range of where the Saints pick could land?

First, a visual of the top 18, via Tankathon:


It won't be top two, because they cannot catch the Texans or Bears. The highest it can climb is third overall, but that is an extreme longshot.

The Saints can still win the NFC South, but they would need both of the following to occur:

  1. They would have to win their final two games against the Eagles and Panthers.
  2. They would need the Buccaneers to lose their final two games against the Panthers and Falcons.

If they win the NFC South and get into the playoffs, then they could still win the Super Bowl, which would of course mean that it would be the 31st overall pick. Again, extreme longshot.

So the short answer here is that there are a very wide range of possibilities for that pick, but it'll likely land right around where it is right now.

Question from Juslisun2DaMsg: Would you rest Hurts for one more week and have him play at least the first quarter/half against Giants?

If Hurts is not limited in what he can physically do and there's no chance of the injury worsening, then the Eagles should play him on Sunday against the Saints. I don't know how realistic that is, though.

If Gardner Minshew plays and beats the Saints, then I'd probably sit Hurts Week 18 against the Giants.

Hurts attempted just six passes (playing in only one game) during the 2022 preseason, and then he had a 30-day layoff in between that game and the Eagles' Week 1 game in Detroit. He won't forget how to play quarterback.

Question from @RickP25057744: Chris Long suggested that Jonathan Gannon was holding back on his defensive scheme against Dallas, not showing the full playbook in case they meet again. With all the zone coverage, might there be something to that?

I respect Chris Long quite a bit and am a fan of his podcast, but I don't buy that. I thought Gannon was aggressive early on, showing some unique blitzes, particularly with Avonte Maddox, but once Maddox went down, he got super conservative, and hoped the Cowboys would beat themselves, which of course they did not.

But the Eagles wanted to win that game. That was the priority in that matchup, in my opinion, not saving looks for a theoretical playoff matchup.

Question from BillMoyerATX: The Cowboys played on Thursday night. Is this the first time they have ever played on the road on a Thursday on short rest? Although not fully short rest like the rest of the league since they last played on Saturday.

If you go back and look at past seasons, the NFL usually has them playing a Thursday game the week after Thanksgiving, which of course means that they still get a full week of rest, so at least the Saturday game into the Thursday game is a step in the fair direction.

Question from eagle_mass: For perspective, the Eagles lost the third of three games on the road. Tall task to win three in a row on the road. If they face Dallas again and the Eagles have the 1 seed, then that would be Dallas' fourth road game in a row. Has that ever happened?

The 49ers closed the regular season last year with a road game against the Rams, and then they had to play three road games in the playoffs against the Cowboys, Packers, and Rams again. So, yes, it happens. Getting the 1 seed as opposed to the 5 seed is kind of a big deal. 

As you note, the Cowboys finish off the 2022 regular season with road games against the Titans (which already happened on Thursday night), and then in Washington. In a weird way, I wonder if the Cowboys would almost be relieved if the Eagles simply beat the Saints on Sunday, which would mean that they would likely rest their starters Week 18 in Washington. If the Eagles lost, they would go all out to beat the Commanders, which could be an effort gone to waste if the Eagles beat the Giants Week 18.

Question from @NoirMark79: Is “No cheering in the press box” a real rule?

About an hour and a half before each game, there's typically a press box announcer who goes through the inactives, the weather, any recent changes to the rosters, etc. At that time, a small handful of teams will warn that there is no cheering allowed in the press box, which in my opinion is a silly exercise. Nobody is cheering. Everyone knows.

I've only seen cheering in the press box called out one time. There was a game in Washington one year in which Malcom Jenkins picked off a screen pass and returned it for a touchdown. I think it was 2016. Harold Carmichael was in the press box and he made some kind of excited noise immediately after the pick. He was an employee of the team, and it really wasn't disruptive in any way. It was just a natural reaction to a big play, and he had a self-realization grimace/smile 😬 on his face like, "Oops, that might have been a little loud."

After the play was over, the press box announcer said something to the effect of, "As a reminder, cheering in the press box is absolutely prohibited," lol.

It's Harold Carmichael! If Harold Carmichael accidentally makes an excited noise after a game-changing play, he's a Hall of Famer and you should just shut up and let him make his excited noise.

Question from @mattmacp10: How do you feel about tipping your postal worker and trash/recycle people for the holidays?

Our postal worker puts a Milk Bone in my mailbox most days throughout the year for Charlie. So, yeah, she got a big tip for the holidays. And yeah, generally speaking, I'll tip my poster worker regardless.

I did not tip the trash/recycle folks. I'm not sure if this matters or not, but we don't have the guys that ride on the back of the truck who hop off and empty garbage cans by hand. If we did and it were the same guys every week, I would absolutely tip them. But in my town everyone has the same big trash/recycle cans, and a mechanical arm on the truck does all the lifting. It's basically a two-man operation — one guy drives, the other works the mechanical arm, and neither ever gets out of the truck. We never have any sort of personal interaction.

Honestly, it never even crossed my mind to tip those guys, but if I should be tipping them then I would like to know, so please advise. 

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