It’s unsexy but woefully necessary. The 2017 NFL finds itself in a place where even Jerry Jones can be convinced to take a star offensive lineman over the flashy skill player in favor of protecting the most important position in sports. The Philadelphia Eagles have a sophomore quarterback looking to develop into a decade-long starter. Fortunately the Eagles have some depth for their offensive wall.
While much of the offseason moves involved stopping the largest leaks at corner back and wide receiver, the offensive line was rarely touched despite not having as much depth as a typical NFL season requires. Trades for Allen Barbre and yesterday’s trade of Matt Tobin got a return in value for players the Eagles didn’t think produced the same benefit on the field. Re-signing Stefen Wisniewski to a three-year deal and signing Chance Warmack to a one-year deal highlighted the offensive line additions.
The Eagles are opting for in-house talent to help the starters. With Isaac Seumalo presumably moving up to a starting role, Josh Andrews, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and the aforementioned Wisniewski and Warmack make up a strong back up group of experienced linemen.
While we often think of Dallas and Tennessee as having the strongest offensive lines, Pro Football Focus has the Eagles as having the best offensive line entering the 2017 season. Granted, the lineup is with Allen Barbre, but one player isn’t enough to derail such a ranking. Or is it?
For as much hype as there is around the depth and confidence Frank Reich confides in the offensive line, they’re not impervious to stumbles. The Eagles were 2-8 last season without Lane Johnson and 5-1 with him. Jason Peters was the third most penalized offensive lineman in the league last year, while the line as a whole was tied as the second most penalized in the league (26).
If the offensive line is to be touted as much as we think, the struggle of the running game becomes something of a mystery. Short dives into the line, porous sweeps, and minimal downfield blocking were constants last season and continue in this preseason. The sample sizes for this season are small, but Donnel Pumphrey’s .3 yards per carry and LeGarrette Blount’s 1.9 per carry are ugly numbers that undoubtedly contribute to the buzz of the possibility that Blount won’t make the roster.
Pass blocking will be more essential this season with the addition of big receivers. While the Eagles are still working out kinks for the regular season, Carson Wentz has had his fair share of scrambles, rushes, hits, and sacks. All of the blame can’t fall on the offensive line for poor rushing and a rushed passing game, but stability in the line is something to watch for the remainder of the preseason and into the early weeks of the season.
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