Two weeks isn’t much time for the Eagles to get the offensive line ready for the opener, especially since they’ll be without one of their top players and two of the projected starters up front.
Head coach Doug Pederson confirmed he’s caught between a rock and a hard place after losing 2019 first round draft pick Andre Dillard to a torn biceps muscle, which likely will end his season.
The Eagles already were reeling from All-Pro guard Brandon Brooks’ torn Achilles’ tendon, although 38-year-old veteran Jason Peters has practiced like much more than a passable replacement.
Framed against a published report by the Philadelphia Inquirer that Peters is reluctant to switch to left tackle from right guard unless his paycheck reflects the change, Pederson made the best of his Saturday morning Zoom session when asked about replacements.
“Jason Peters is obviously in the conversation,” Pederson said. “We do have some young players; Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor, Jack Driscoll, who’s a rookie, obviously, but playing some tackle for us. We’ve got a couple of guys now including Jason Peters that we want to look at over at the left side.”
Pryor, at 6-foot-6, 332-pounds, certainly looks the part. But it’s probably inside where he held his ground in the wild card round of the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks.
The 2018 sixth-round pick out of TCU said he’s comfortable at any position but center. He practiced exclusively at left tackle Saturday while Peters worked at right guard.
“Right now, they haven’t really made a decision but whatever opportunity I get I’m going to give my full effort on it,” Pryor said. “I’m comfortable wherever the coaches put me. Everybody gets better with repetition. When the reps come, the more I’m going to improve at it.”
Coming into camp, Pryor assumed he’d be at right guard. When Peters was re-signed, Pryor figured the Eagles would roll with Peters.
With left tackle open again, Pryor doesn’t want to waste time figuring out what elements are at work. He intimated that “business” was in play, which typically is a reference to a contract issue.
“I mean, whatever business thing goes on that’s between them,” Pryor said of Peters and the Eagles. “Me, whatever opportunity I get I’m about to take. Just take advantage of what I get.”
Peters signed a one-year, $3.162 million contract with the Eagles, including a $1.162 million signing bonus and $2.962 million guaranteed, according to Spotrac.com. The agreement includes a per game active bonus of $12,500 worth up to $200,000.
Last year Peters made $6 million. A pay upgrade doesn’t appear unreasonable, unless, of course, the Eagles feel more comfortable with JP at right guard. Make no mistake, his power and footwork have been impressive next to undersized pivot Jason Kelce, who’s listed at 295 pounds.
Guards Brooks and Isaac Seumalo, and right tackle Lane Johnson, who’s nursing a lower body injury, are the keys to the Eagles’ pass protection. There’s no way Carson Wentz can feel comfortable in the pocket with heat coming up the A gaps.
The health of Johnson, 30, also is a mystery, although Pederson denied it was an issue, saying the veteran of seven seasons is “doing fine, he’s still day to day.”
Mailata, who began camp late after contracting COVID-19, has been playing mostly at left tackle. He was at right tackle Saturday.
The Eagles know Peters can play left tackle. They have a few more practices to convince themselves they’re OK with somebody else protecting the blindside of Carson Wentz.
“It’ll be great to go up against our starters on defense, in practice this week and continue to evaluate,” Pederson said. “Obviously, it’s unfortunate with Andre and his injury but we can bring somebody in here to help. If it’s a veteran player, we’ll look that way, too. But Matt Pryor has played games. Don’t mistake that. He’s played games. He’s started for us and he’s played in some big situations, and so we’re going to lean on that. At some point we’ve got to trust our players. It’s our job to coach them up and get them prepared, to help them, not only in practice but in game situations.”
There isn’t much outside veteran help available at left tackle. Among others available are Cordy Glenn (6-6, 345), who played six years with Buffalo and two with Cincinnati, Jared Veldheer (6-8, 321), who has started 113 of 120 games played in nine years with four teams, most recently the Green Bay Packers, and 37-year-old Donald Penn (6-4, 315), a veteran of 13 seasons, the last with Washington.
That’s about it unless the Eagles swing a deal with a team that drafted a big-time offensive tackle. For example, Joe Douglas and the New York Jets might not have an overwhelming need for…