The Philadelphia Eagles had an abundance of health along the offensive line last year, which contributed greatly to the team’s turnaround and getting them back into the playoffs after a two-year hiatus. Having a strong foundation with the #1-ranked offensive line according to ProFootballFocus led to Philadelphia setting multiple team records in most points scored, net offensive yards, passing yards, and total touchdowns. Football Outsiders’ chart of snap counts showed that the Eagles’ starting five offensive linemen played an impressive 98.3% of their snaps. The table below breaks down each starter’s snap counts on offense.
Total Possible Snaps
Offensive guards Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis played every single offensive snap last year, and Lane Johnson narrowly missed perfection by one snap. Center Jason Kelce and tackle Jason Peters both held their own as the Eagles were able to stave off any ominous injuries in 2013.
Can the same be said for 2014?
Last year’s first-round pick offensive tackle Lane Johnson’s probable suspension for the first four games of 2014’s season already has the Philadelphia offense fighting uphill to start the season. Can the Eagles afford a significant injury this year during this suspension? Would any of the current offensive line backups on the roster be adept and agile enough to move quickly and block effectively in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense?
First up to bat is swing offensive tackle/guard Allen Barbre who filled in admirably last year at left tackle for Jason Peters during Green Bay’s game. The journeyman showcased his ability to hold his own against one of the NFC ‘s top pass rushers in outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Barbre will be counted on again this season as the replacement for Johnson at right tackle during his suspension. Alternatively, Philadelphia could slide Herremans out to tackle and let Barbre play inside, but that may be something that gets decided over the course of training camp and preseason. Barbre has more upside as a solid pass blocker than in run support, but it’s his athleticism that has helped separate himself from the rest of the crop of backups.
The 30-year old offensive line chess piece just received a three year contract extension from the Eagles this offseason. They’ll be looking for an early return on their investment as he fills in.
The rest of the Eagles’ remaining backups trying to make it through to the final 53-man roster are a group of players without high draft picks or high pedigrees. However, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has been working on developing each of them over the past season. Offensive tackles Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin will be fighting for spots on the depth chart. Eagles fans have seen the valleys that come with Kelly’s play as he was thrust in the lineup in 2012 as the team was devastated with injuries that year. Tobin is former undrafted free agent with experience at both tackle and guard but has yet to see the field.
The guards are another set of undrafted players in the gigantic 6-8 340-pound Matt Bamiro and new rookie free-agent guard Karim Barton. Both are long term projects that would be a stretch to see the field in 2014. Center Julian Vandervelde has some experience but if additional injuries arise for the Eagles, the outlook does not look promising. If Philadelphia can get through these first four games without any significant injuries and let Barbre move back to being the proverbial “sixth man”, the Eagles should be fine. If not, then it could be a long season for the Philadelphia fan base.
The Eagles do have some potential in their offensive linemen and perhaps they just need a chance to prove their mettle. The question is, if injuries do arise this year and one of these undrafted free agents is fed to the fire, will Stoutland have them ready and up to the task?