Eagles Practice Update: The Offensive Line Shuffle
By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Evan Mathis stood before his locker Wednesday morning joking he walks around with a raised awareness these days. He’s beginning to feel like a reality star in a version of Final Destination.
The Eagles’ left guard is the only healthy starter remaining on the Eagles’ offensive line from this time last season. Left tackle Jason Peters was lost before the season with a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Center Jason Kelce was lost after he tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in the Eagles’ 24-23 victory over Baltimore on September 16, and right guard Danny Watkins missed the last two games with a chronic sprained ankle.
And now right tackle Todd Herremans has been put on season ending injured reserve with a tendon injury in his right ankle, suffered in the Eagles’ 28-13 loss to New Orleans Monday night.
That leaves Mathis with four guys that didn’t play last year: left tackle King Dunlap, center Dallas Reynolds, right guard Dennis Kelly and now it looks like Demetress Bell at right tackle, replacing Herremans.
It’s a revolving door that doesn’t bode well for a floundering team that’s in the throes of a four-game losing streak. The Eagles will lug a 3-5 record into Sunday’s NFC East meeting with the Dallas Cowboys, a desperate team that’s also 3-5 and will be playing for its postseason life against the Eagles.
The Eagles’ offensive line is recoiling from a dismal seven-sack performance against New Orleans. Without an opportunity to coalesce, with the team in a state of urgency, more instability on the offensive line doesn’t help matters.
“Consistency is huge for the offensive line, but we just have to have a sense of urgency, because there is nothing else you can do but do your job,” Mathis said. “It’s frustrating, but you just have to go back to work, get in the film room, get with the coaches, go to practice, practice perfect and then execute on Sunday. You focus on the mistakes that you’re making, look yourself in the mirror, be accountable and come out with a sense of urgency and play better.”
It will help playing against Dallas, a team that Eagles are familiar with. Mathis feels the Eagles’ run blocking is better than the pass blocking has been. The Eagles plowed over the Saints for 221 yards rushing, averaging 7.6 yards a carry.
“We pride ourselves on being able to run the ball, and we want to keep doing that, but obviously we need to keep [Michael] Vick upright in the pocket. I’m the only one standing now from the original starting group, but I’m still going to keep trying to lead. It’s a little weird [being the last starter standing]. It’s a final destination kind of thing. Hopefully, I don’t get hit by a bus or anything.”
Kelce says cohesion is important. Kelly was a tackle throughout college. Bell is making the transition from left tackle to right tackle, and not having a consistent group playing each week is a major drawback this late into the season.
“That’s rough for any offensive line,” Kelce said. “Cohesion is huge, especially when it comes to communicating. In order to do your job, you have to know everything the guys next to you are doing, if you really want to do your job fully correctly. If there are two guys next to me, and they don’t know exactly the playbook, or exactly how they move, or how they’re going to do certain techniques, even that half-step off makes a big difference. Cohesion on the offensive line unit it very big. It’s why we got better last year, because you see that cohesion build.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.