Eagles Offseason Priority: Tackle

When Jason Peters re-injured his Achilles tendon in May, I had a sneaking suspicion that this Eagles team would not accomplish it’s lofty goals.  Left tackle may not carry the same importance for a left handed quarterback like Michael Vick, but that doesn’t mean that the position can be filled long term by a platoon squad of Demetress Bell and King Dunlap.  I go back to a particular play in the Arizona Cardinals game.  With the Eagles trailing 10-0 in the beginning of the 2nd quarter the Eagles were driving in Cardinals territory when Vick got hit from behind and fumbled.  Despite the turnover, it demonstrated the athleticism of a left tackle and center that were not expected to be counted on in a battle of 2-0 teams early in the year.

When hearing about the preseason starting depth chart, I think the most poignant part should feature the combination of Jason Peters and Todd Herremans.  Unfortunately, Peters’ story is well versed and Herremans later succumbed to the injury bug week nine against New Orleans.  Jason Kelce was lost in the week two win against the Super Bowl Champion Ravens (who’d a thunk that?) when he injured his knee.  Danny Watkins was given a combination of injury and demotion by week eight.  This team was an unbelievably cruel display of the vicious rebuilding cycle NFL teams at one point or another will have to persevere through.  If you think it’s always been a period of success for the New England Patriots or the Green Bay Packers I recommend mentioning the names of Chuck Fairbanks or Rich Campbell, respectively.  Fortunately for the Eagles, many of their skill players are still young and with success in the draft and free agency contention is but a short distance away.  Consider the fact that three of the top four teams in 2012’s NFL draft reached the playoffs this past season.  And while a majority of the mainstream media attention is given to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (and deservedly so), Matt Kalil was selected fourth by the Minnesota Vikings and the Vikings were 2nd in rushing yardage as well as first in yards per attempt.

For the Eagles, this offseason is about protecting Michael Vick to recreate some of the big plays that this offense was capable of just a season and a half ago.  That starts in the trenches in a strong offseason for the lines in both free agency as well as in the draft.  For the Eagles, these veterans are not getting any younger.  Phil Loadholt, the Vikings free agent tackle, is 27 years old.  Luke Joeckel recently turned 21 years old in November.  As the Eagles painfully learned from Danny Watkins, the offensive line needs to get younger rather than older.

Todd Herremans played left guard in 2006 and could be a part of a left side of the offensive line that would weigh over 650 pounds.  At tackle, the obvious name being tossed around is Luke Joeckel however I do not believe he’ll make it down to four.  Reid addressed the lines in many of our drafts and I don’t expect him to pass on a tackle that could stay with Kansas City for ten or more years.  Eric Fisher doesn’t warrant a top five pick, and there’s a chance that Chance Warmack could get selected, but it’s difficult to say.  Joeckel is a player that can solidify his standing at or near the top of the draft by performing well at either the combine and/or his pro day (should he elect to perform).

The Eagles’ advantage is if Chip Kelly desires he could keep Todd Herremans at right tackle in the upcoming season.  Health is the biggest question facing both Peters and Herremans.  A project draft pick could be Menelik Watson out of Florida State.  Watson will be available in the 2nd or 3rd round and could potentially wreak havoc in an aggressive rushing schemed offense that will feature both LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.  Kyle Long is also an interesting name to contemplate on draft day as the son of Howie and brother of Chris came from Kelly’s Oregon offense.  The outstanding bloodline and connection to Chip Kelly could entice the Eagles to select him to provide quality depth.  Regardless of how the Eagles go about this offseason, the health of whomever suits up week one is the chief concern.

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