By Kevin McGuire
In a season of much inconsistency from the Philadelphia Eagles, offensive line woes have been a dreadful constant theme. On Wednesday, right tackle Todd Herremans was placed on the team’s injured reserve list, ending his season in a boot. This leaves the Eagles attempting to try and find able bodies to line up in hopes of being able to protect battered and bruised quarterback Mike Vick and allow the running game to find any room to work with.
Herremans injured his foot Monday night in New Orleans, and the story seems almost all too familiar for the Philadelphia Eagles this season. Offensive guard Danny Watkins did not practice at all last week and was ruled out for the loss in New Orleans. Tackle King Dunlap has been working through a hamstring recently. In September center Jason Kelce was placed on injured reserve just weeks after guard Mike Gibson was placed on injured reserved.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said guard Evan Mathis. “We’ve had some pretty bad luck on the offensive line.” If that’s true [that Herremans is out for the year], then I’m the only guy left standing.” Mathis is indeed the last remaining starting offensive lineman from the start of the season.
“I’ve never played behind a line where we’ve had so many guys out,” Vick said. “But it’s part of the game and now those other guys have to step up to the plate.”
What has resulted is the Eagles scrambling to sign players in hopes of finding some diamonds in the rough, or at least can keep things together long enough for a play to develop. That has led to upgrading players from the practice squad to signing undrafted free agents or players who worked practice squad duty elsewhere. Forming a cohesive offensive line in football is hard enough, even with quality talent. Doing so with players who look undersized and lost when lining up against NFL defensive lines leaves little to hide. Had these injuries cropped up in training camp the Eagles may have been able to navigate through the troubled waters, but now the Eagles must adjust on the fly, which has rarely been a trait Reid and his team has carried well.
Anybody who watched Monday night’s dismal performance will tell you the offensive line is not working. The New Orleans Saints, owners of one of the worst defenses in the NFL entering the game, sacked Vick seven times, many times getting to the quarterback before he had a chance to do anything even with his usual elusiveness.
“We ended up with one starter finishing the game,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid said of his offensive line. “One first-day starter finishing the game, and that’s not an excuse.”
Reid always takes the blame for the play of his team, but with his team continuing to struggle the veteran head coach needs something to change quickly. Reid is not about to give up on his makeshift offensive line.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in there, we have to protect Mike a lot better than that,” Mathis said. “When Mike [Vick] has the time he’s one of the best in the league and we have to find a way to get him that time.”
“I expect them to play that way,” Reid replied when asked if his line can battle back. That battle back to .500 starts this weekend against the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys have been equally disappointing compared to the Eagles, making this weekend’s match-up a must-win for both teams. If the Eagles cannot get together in the trenches, it could be another long day with DeMarcus Ware known to lurk in the offensive backfield frequently.
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Kevin McGuire covers college football for Examiner.com and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter (@KevinOnCFB). His work can be found on Examiner.com.