The interior offensive line was a major problem for the Eagles last season. While tackles like King Dunlap and Demetress Bell deserved some of the blame for getting Michael Vick hammered in the pocket, the guards and center conceded some of the worst hits on Vick and quickest pressure. With Jason Kelce on track to return in time for week 1 and Todd Herremans kicking inside to right guard, there’s reason to believe that protection will improve in 2013. Here’s a full breakdown:
Who makes the team:
Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Kyle Quinn, Dallas Reynolds, Danny Watkins
Herremans, Kelce, and Mathis are locks not only to make the team, but to start. I’m keeping six interior players because I only chose three tackles, and it’s hard to imagine fewer than nine linemen on a 53-man roster. Watkins has had his struggles, but he’s currently the third-best guard on the team and position coach Jeff Stoutland seems to genuinely like him. Dallas Reynolds isn’t starting material, but he’s versatile and probably could have done worse last season. He has more NFL experience than any of the players he will be competing against. Kyle Quinn is an undrafted free agent whom the Eagles really like. He could beat out Reynolds for the #2 center job. His chances of making the team increase if he can play guard as well.
Who starts week 1:
Evan Mathis (left guard), Jason Kelce (center), Todd Herremans (right guard)
These are no-brainers. Chip Kelly has already committed to playing Herremans at right guard. Mathis is one of the top guards in the league and his minor ankle surgery shouldn’t give him any trouble in training camp. Kelce is definitely the man at center, but must prove his health first. If all three are healthy, they will be the starters. No competition or controversy here.
How the position stacks up:
After watching how quickly last year’s offensive line turned south, any optimism fans have should be guarded. Still, this unit has great potential. The only concerns I have are related to injuries. Evan Mathis is an absolute rock at left guard. He takes care of his business in pass protection and makes an impact in the running game. Herremans is an above average starter at guard, and Kelce was on the verge of a breakout season last year. These three players all have the athleticism that Chip Kelly loves, too. They are all consummate professionals who always show up in shape. The depth behind them is a bit shaky, as neither Danny Watkins nor Dallas Reynolds have performed well as starters, so keep your fingers crossed that the starters stay healthy. If they do, the Eagles are in fantastic shape up front.