Offensive Line Big Reason For Eagles Resurgence
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — They’ve got two rookies in the middle, one player who’s never been a tackle at tackle and another guy who is with his fourth team in five years.
That’s an unusual recipe for one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
But the Eagles (3-4) have won consecutive games and have put themselves back in the NFC East race along the way, as a date with the Chicago Bears (4-3) looms on Monday. So, long story short, they’ll take it.
“We’ve got a journeyman in there at left guard, two rookies at center and right guard, a tackle who’s supposedly playing out of position … on paper, it was scary,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “There were a lot of guys in new positions, so you can understand why people were thinking we weren’t going to be any good.”
When the season began, the only constant on the Eagles offensive line was Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters. Seven weeks in, the makeshift unit is helping the Eagles put up record numbers.
Philadelphia ranks No. 1 in the league in offense at 449 yards per game, which puts them on pace for an NFL-record 7,188 yards. The Eagles are No. 1 in rushing offense, No. 3 in first downs and No. 9 in sacks allowed.
Seven games into the season, the Eagles have a quarterback on pace to throw for 4,200 yards, three receivers on pace for 900 yards and a running back on pace for 1,700 yards.
And they all credit this newly assembled line.
“People are starting to see how good the o-line really is,” said LeSean McCoy, who is second in the NFL in rushing with 754 yards, 44 yards behind Adrian Peterson in one fewer game. “They’re athletic, they’re strong and they’re fast and they can get out on blocks so quick. I’m hitting the hole, and I’m not getting touched till I’m four yards down the field.
“None of this stuff would be possible if those guys weren’t blocking for me.”
When training camp began, Todd Herremans was the left guard, Jamaal Jackson was at center, rookie first-round pick Danny Watkins was in at right guard and Ryan Harris was the right tackle.
After a preseason of constant change under new offensive line coach Howard Mudd, the Eagles opened the season with Mathis at left guard, rookie Jason Kelce at center, free agent pickup Kyle Devan at right guard and Herremans at right tackle.
Once Peters returned from a two-game absence with a hamstring injury and Watkins regained his right guard spot, the transformation was complete. With the final product together Sunday for the first time ever, the Eagles hammered out six long scoring drives and 495 yards in a 34-7 win over the Cowboys.
“We’re a very talented group up front,” Herremans said. “With this scheme that Howard’s given us, we have a chance of being a lot better, too. Things are finally started to pick up and click with all the new people. There’s a couple young guys in there, I’m young at the position I’m at, Evan’s bounced around and he’s finally getting a lot of (playing time). We just have a lot of room to grow with where we’re at right now.”
After losing four straight games, the Eagles are now just two games out of first place, with plenty of time left.
The Bears game will be their second straight primetime tilt. And it will be another chance for this line to showcase its talents in front of a national television audience.
“I don’t expect us to take a step back from here on out,” Herremans said. “It should only get better. We’ve definitely made some big strides from where we were early on in the year, but it doesn’t surprise me. Everybody who’s out there is willing to learn and wants to get better.
“So, it’s no surprise at all.”
Although turnovers killed the Eagles early in the season, the offense has already had games with 513, 495, 489, 447, 422 and 403 yards. The only team to hold the Eagles under 400 yards was the first-place Giants (5-2).
“I don’t know if it’s unstoppable, but it’s about as unstoppable as you can get,” Kelce said of the offense. “We do a lot of really good things, we have a lot of playmakers, a lot of phenomenal players.
“As long as we do a semi-decent job of blocking, the offense is pretty unreal.”
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