The one position we figured the Eagles wouldn’t have to address in next month’s draft was left tackle. That likely changed Friday with the news that All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters will likely miss the entire 2012 season with a ruptured achilles tendon.
We’re well aware by now that Andy Reid and the Eagles front office places a premium on certain positions and left tackle is certainly one of those positions. With a complete dearth of talent at the left tackle position currently available via free agency, it’s almost certain that the Eagles will utilize a draft pick in the first two rounds to address what is now a glaring need.
Just how important was Peters in 2011? Paul Domowitch of The Philadelphia Daily News wrote earlier Friday that Peters allowed just three sacks in 570 pass plays last season. That’s incredible.
The Eagles may opt to move current right tackle Todd Herremans to the left side in order to pick up opponent’s best pass rushers, but that’s yet to be determined. Keep in mind quarterback Michael Vick is left handed so it’s actually Herreman’s who protected Vick’s blindside, not Peters.
Regardless, rookie tackles are no sure thing (see: Justice, Winston), but if the Eagles hope to compete for a Lombardi Trophy in 2012 they must find a way to upgrade the position beyond King Dunlap. The draft, at this point, seems to be the only way to do that.
While you may not want to cross players like Fletcher Cox or Luke Kuechly off your draft boards just yet, the Eagles will have to take a long look at potential replacements for Peters. So let’s find out who that player just may be.
Iowa tackle Riley Reiff is considered by most draft experts to be the second best at the position behind USC’s Matt Kalil. Kalil will undoubtedly be off the board before the Eagles draft with the 15th pick, but it’s possible that Reiff falls to the Eagles or that the team trades up a few slots to select him. He’s a very athletic run and pass blocker who dominated opponents on his way to earning First-Team All-Big Ten honors a year ago.
The Eagles could also stand pat or trade back a few slots to select Stanford RT Jonathan Martin who helped formed the line that paved the way for Andrew Luck’s stardom. Obviously, if the Eagles draft Martin they would have to move Herremans to the left side.
If the Eagles want to wait to address the need in the second round, players such as Ohio State’s Mike Adams and Florida State’s Zebrie Sanders are both early-round prospects that the Eagles could look at. Brown is a long and tall blocker, who needs a bit of work. He has Pro Bowl potential, but needs time to refine his technique. The good news with Adams is that he wouldn’t, in theory, be blocking the quaterback’s blind side, so the Eagles have a little bit more room to gamble with Adams. While Sanders’ upside may not be quite as good, he has good feet and is a reliable and intelligent blocker. He’s especially good at blocking on traps and stretch runs.
Regardless of how the Eagles play it, none of these players will match Peters’ level of play. It’s simply a devastating injury to the Eagles’ offense, and perhaps their chances of making a deep playoff run this season.