In 2013, the Eagles had arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. All 5 week 1 starters started every single game, probably due in large part to the sports science program that head coach Chip Kelly installed when he was named head coach. That being said, let’s take a look at what the Eagles offensive line will look like in 2014 and whether we can expect any additions to be made between now and the start of the season.
Last year, Chip Kelly made the first pick of his regime right tackle Lane Johnson out of Oklahoma with the 4th overall pick. While Johnson did experience some growing pains at the beginning of the season, by the end of the season it was easy to forget that there was a rookie on the offensive line at all. Johnson, if he remains healthy, looks like he will be shoring up the right tackle position for years to come, potentially moving to left tackle when Jason Peters inevitably departs.
Backing up Lane Johnson will be Dennis Kelly, who saw no time at all in 2013 after coming off of a back surgery in the preseason. Although he didn’t see any time this past season, Kelly saw plenty of time his rookie season, when he was forced to play due to numerous injuries on the offensive line. That experience will hopefully prove invaluable if he is once again called upon in relief of a starter.
Right guard Todd Herremans has been a stalwart on the offensive line since he was drafted in the 4th round of the 2005 NFL draft. While he has performed well at both guard and his natural position at tackle, his performance dipped somewhat this past season. Herremans also does not have the natural athleticism that Chip covets in his offensive linemen. After his somewhat disappointing 2013 season, I wouldn’t mind the Eagles finding a replacement somewhere in the draft, even if it’s someone who could take a year or two to learn from the veteran lineman. If, however, the Eagles end up drafting someone in the top rounds like Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA, Herremans could lose his starting job and become expendable.
Backing up Herremans this past year was fellow guard Allen Barbre. Barbre has been something of a journeyman throughout his career, having played for 4 teams in his 7-year career. We barely saw him play at all this past year after signing with the Eagles in the 2013 offseason, so it’s hard to determine how effective he would be if either Herremans or Mathis went down with injury. Here’s to hoping we won’t have to find out.
When the Eagles drafted center Jason Kelce in the 6th round of the 2011 draft, few thought he would be gem of the Eagles’ 2011 draft class. Kelce has quietly emerged as one of the best centers in the league. After going down with an ankle injury in 2012, Kelce roared back to have a solid 2013 season. If he continues to progress the way he has been, there is no doubt in my mind he will be the league’s best center very soon.
Fellow 2011 draft pick Julian Vandervelde assumed the backup center position this past year. As with almost all backups on the offensive line, Vandervelde didn’t get much playing time in 2013. That being said, the coaching staff must have felt relatively comfortable with him since they moved him from guard to center and released Dallas Reynolds, who was rather ineffective in place of Kelce during the 2012 season.
Right guard Evan Mathis has shored up the position since being signed in 2011. He has become the top guard, and possible the top offensive lineman in the NFL. While this is hardly a way to judge a player, Mathis was given the highest grade of any offensive lineman in Madden 25. The only thing that must be considered with Mathis is how long he can sustain his current level of play, as he will turn 33 next season. Also, the Eagles have reportedly put Mathis on the trading block after he asked for a pay raise this offseason.
Starting right tackle Jason Peters is perhaps the most athletic offensive tackle in all of football. After tearing his Achilles twice before the 2012 season, Peters came back in 2013 and played better than could be expected from a 32-year-old tackle coming off such a serious injury. While prior to his injury Peters was widely considered the best tackle in all of football, he came back and had a very strong season.
Matt Tobin, a rookie undrafted free agent signing in 2013, did not have to play much this past season, which undoubtedly gave him some time to become accustomed to the rigors of the NFL and to learn Chip Kelly’s scheme. Hopefully he will progress and become a solid backup, but, as I have already stated, backups did not get much playing time this past season.
The Eagles also have a few unknowns signed to the 90-man roster this offseason. Center David Molk and tackles Michael Bamiro and Andrew Gardner are all developmental prospects who could see playing time or backup roles this next season if they prove themselves in training camp. The most intriguing of these prospects is probably Michael Bamiro, who is an absolute mountain of a man, standing at 6’8″ and 340 pounds. He was in training camp last year as well, but was unable to make the team. If he has developed more during the last season and continues to develop this offseason, we could see him in an Eagles jersey come September. The Eagles could also add some depth in the upcoming draft. There are a few prospects who fit the mold of big, athletic guys that Chip wants on his offensive line, so there is a chance that the lineup, at least of backups, changes quite a bit between now and Week 1.