Jason Peters, Stacy Andrews and Nick Cole block for running back Mike Bell.

Big Questions Surrounding Offensive Line

Heading into training camp, one of the questions that the Eagles faced was the status of their offensive line. Is it healthy, and if it is, how will it function as a unit? We as Eagles fans have been spoiled for a long time when it comes to the o-line. Gone are the days of Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas and Hank Fraley. After several days of camp, the concerns Eagles fans had about this unit during the off-season have yet to subside.

Lets talk about these particular off-season concerns: Jamaal Jackson torn his ACL last season. Todd Herremans had off-season foot surgery to repair a stress fracture. The Eagles neglected this unit in the draft and during free agency. Nick Cole had struggled somewhat during the time he filled in for Jackson near the end of the season.

Well, to begin, Jackson and Herremans began camp (and have remained)on the PUP list. The return of Jackson would undoubtedly allow the fans to breath a little when it comes to the status of our line. We saw in the last few games of the season that Nick Cole had a lot of trouble plugging up the A-gaps and identify the blitz. Plus with Jackson back, Cole would be able to shift back over to guard which he has had a lot more success in the past. Jackson says he should be good to go by Week 1, but Andy Reid has said that this is a long shot.

Initial reports on Herremans were that he was fine, and he’d be ready to go very soon. Now it seems as though he won’t even be ready for the first week of preseason. Now, I could care less if he’s ready for the pre-season. He can take his time and miss all the games if he’s healthy and ready to go for Week 1. He’s one of the best guards in the league and can play at admirably at tackle if need be. But he’s been keeping pretty quite on the status of his recovery, so we’re left in the dark somewhat when it comes to his status.

Now, if you have missed it so far, one of the biggest underlying problems with this unit is injuries. And they aren’t letting up at camp either. A.Q. Shipley, who is one of the guys who was supposed to give Cole a run for his money at center, went  down with what the Eagles have reported as an ankle injury. His ankle was already taped heavily before this, which leads one to believe that he might have aggravated an old injury. On a less serious note, Max Jean-Gilles missed the second practice today but the Eagles have stated that it was just dehydration.

The lack of depth is another big issue the line is facing. Trent Howard, Mike McGlynn and Shipley have been struggling at camp so far. A lot of the defensive lineman easily went around of through these guys in 1-on-1 drills. Now, this could be a testament to the great work the Eagles did on bolstering their d-line this summer, but more likely a combination of both. King Dunlap hasn’t stood out much either, for good or for bad.

Now, it’s not all bad. Fenuki Tupou has been having a very solid camp so far. Our starting tackles, Jason Peters and Winston Justice, have also been consistent and have been playing well. MJG looks a lot better after his lap-band surgery. Andy Reid has a lot of confidence in Stacy Andrews.

Reid and Co. have always had confidence in this entire unit. Although there wasn’t much out there, he didn’t make any changes through free agency or through the draft.  I can see where he’s coming from, it’s just a matter of getting healthy. A starting 5 of Peters-Herremans-Jackson-Andrews-Justice would be solid. Cole could back up at center, or either guard spot. If Peters were to go down, slide Herremans over and put MJG or Cole in his spot.

The importance of having a consistent and cohesive line this year is greater than ever. With a QB who isn’t as mobile as our previous one, he needs time in the pocket. It’s all a matter of getting and staying healthy. I don’t like saying it, and it may be a bit early to do so, but if Herremans and Jackson don’t get healthy soon we may be in trouble. For Kevin Kolb‘s healthy and for our sanity, lets hope they do. Fast.

Training Camp Coverage

Visit InsideTheIggles.com for exclusive training camp coverage, including practice recaps and scouting reports from the Lehigh Valley.  ITI’s Ryan Messick will be reporting from Training Camp throughout the day on August 5th through 8th.  Check back often for updates, and follow along on Twitter at www.twitter.com/InsidetheIggles or  www.twitter.com/Ryan_Messick.

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Tags: A.Q. Shipley Jamaal Jackson Jason Peters Nick Cole Offensive Line Stacy Andrews Todd Herremans Training Camp 2010 Winston Justice

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