Humor me for a moment. I’m reminiscing on good times. I’m remembering, very fondly, the days when the Eagles offensive line was simply phenomenal. I see John Runyan and Tra Thomas at the tackles. I see Shawn Andrews and Todd Herremans at the guards. I see Jamaal Jackson at center. These guys were devastating run blockers and among the best in the league at pass protection. They had a nasty streak. Opposing defensive lines would get thrown around like a rag doll against them.
Oh man, what on earth happened?
Now the offensive line is nothing short of horrendous. When I look at this unit’s production in 2010, I see very few positive things. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. There were good things, but they were overshadowed by the egregiously awful things. I want to take a look at things position by position.
Left Tackle – This was perhaps the best part of the offensive line, when Jason Peters was anchoring it. It was when Peters didn’t start that things collapsed under the watch of King Dunlap. I am aware that many fans aren’t too fond of Jason Peters because of the false starts, but Peters did an excellent job of cutting those down this season. Something people don’t seem to understand is that it’s often the left tackle’s job to get the quickest jump possible since he’s often protecting the quarterback’s blindside. False starts, as a result, are bound to happen. As it is, Peters had an excellent season in both run blocking and pass protection. He is responsible for the one position on the offensive line that I am completely confident in.
Left Guard – Todd Herremans was very confusing this season. He was, if you will, the Stewart Bradley of the offense this season. There were a few games in which he looked absolutely devastating as a blocker, and far more games where he looked lost and soft. A good deal of the pressure that forced Vick to roll to the left came as a direct result of Herremans’ relatively poor pass protection. He did, however, show the same knack for being a punishing run blocker as he has throughout all of his career. Herremans and Peters were both huge pieces to LeSean McCoy putting together the fantastic season he did. However, the fact is that Herremans was nowhere near adequate in pass protection.
Center – This was supposed to be Jamaal Jackson’s job. Over the course of the 2010 offseason, he rehabilitated the knee in which is ACL tore and was ready to take the field by Week One of the regular season. His season was swiftly cut short as he suffered a season ending torn biceps muscle in that Week One contest against the Packers. Filling for him was Mike McGlynn. McGlynn provided one of the few bright spots of the offensive line. However, he was also responsible for a fatal mistake against the Tennessee Titans that gave them full momentum to win the game against the Eagles. Had the Eagles won that game, the playoffs may have turned out a lot different with the Eagles possibly having a bye week. However, McGlynn did his job and did it fairly well for the most part of the season. He was decent enough in run blocking and solid in pass protection. An offseason of work as the starter would do McGlynn good, but we could also see him slide out to right guard pending on the health status of Jamaal Jackson.
Right Guard – This was the Achilles heal of the offensive line. The right guard position was in flux all season and no matter what the Eagles did there, nothing seemed to work. Now, when you have a normal quarterback (right handed), the right guard position isn’t quite as crucial. When you have a lefty, like Michael Vick, the entire right side blocking well becomes critical. Both Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles shared starts at right guard, and neither were close to sufficient. At the end, Jean-Gilles was the better of the two. Nick Cole was nothing short of horrendous and has no place on this roster.
Right Tackle – This was another headache for the Eagles. Winston Justice was the starter for the majority of the season, but King Dunlap did make a few starts due to injuries. When Dunlap was in, it was an absolute nightmare. When Justice started it was a little better. Now, Justice did have to deal with the unfortunate of compensating for a poor right guard slot, but he had issues with his own assignments as well. I, for one, have never been impressed with Justice. I don’t hold the horrendous game against the Giants in 2007 against him, but even at right tackle, he’s never shown me anything to prove he’s starter quality. This too was a position of weakness for the Eagles in 2010.
Here’s a few statistics about the Eagles offensive line in 2010. The Eagles had the fourth most quarterback drop backs of any team in the NFL with 679. They allowed the second most QB pressures with 264 which accounted for 37.9% of those drop backs. That percentage was the fifth worst in the league. They also allowed 49 sacks which was fourth worst in the league. In addition to that they allowed 95 quarterback hits which was third worst in the league. What those numbers don’t show, is how the situation only got worse as the season wore on.
Fixing the offensive line is, without question in my mind, the highest priority for the Eagles in the 2011 offseason. Michael Vick simply can’t survive another season taking beatings like he took in 2010. For the Eagles, the lineman that are pending free agents are Reggie Wells and Nick Cole. Wells was acquired in a late offseason trade but never really cracked the starting lineup. Nick Cole, as I mentioned, has no place on this roster. There are a few very interesting free agents out there this season including guards Logan Mankins (New England) and Carl Nicks (New Orleans). Both would be huge upgrades to any of the Eagles’ current guards. The draft offers some interesting talent as well such as Mike Pouncey of Florida, who can play both center and guard.
One thing is for sure, though. The Eagles surely need to upgrade this offensive line quickly if they want to come even close to matching the offensive output they put together in 2010.