Evaluating the Eagles: Part IV


They’re not flashy, they don’t get much pub, but the Eagles‘ offensive line has been steady for the last few seasons. However, age and injuries have finally caught up to this group. 2008 proved to be good/bad situation for the O-line. They allowed a franchise low 23 sacks, but were horrendous in short yardage and redzone run blocking. Let’s dole out some grades.

Offensive Line:

Tra Thomas – A stalwart at left tackle for 11 seasons, Thomas’ future with the Birds is in limbo. Whether he returns for ’09 and beyond is one of the big decisions Reid and Co. must make. Thomas remains at the top of his game and should be retained for 2009. Jared Allen abused him in the playoffs but for the most part he is a reliable protector of Donovan‘s blindside. Grade: A-

Todd Herremans – Todd is a steady, not spectacular player. He has excellent footwork and excels in pass protection. However, his run-blocking needs work. At 6’6″, 320, he may be better suited to play left tackle. If Thomas leaves, the Birds could slide Herremans over to fill the void. Grade: B-

Jamaal Jackson – Jackson, like most centers, goes largely unnoticed. At 330, he is one of the biggest at his position in the NFL. Smart and durable, Jamaal has started 48 straight regular season matchups. Like Herremans, he needs to improve his drive blocking, especially in the goal-line offense. Grade: B

Nick Cole – Cole was thrust into the spotlight after injuries to Shawn Andrews and Max Jean-Gilles. Cole helped revive a stagnant run game late in the season. At 6’0″, 350, he is a bowling bowl who can play either guard or center. If Jon Runyan does not return and Andrews is shifted to right tackle, Cole could be the starting right guard for 2009. Grade: B

Jon Runyan – Andy Reid’s first big-ticket free agent signing back in 1999, Runyan has been a fixture at right tackle ever since. Played through constant knee pain most of ’08. Has started 192 consecutive games and is a legit tough guy. My feeling is Runyan will not be back with the Eagles. Replacing him won’t be easy. Grade: B

Max Jean-Gilles – Started 10 games at right guard before snapping his leg Week 13. Max improved as the season progressed, but at 360 he should play much more physical than he does. Will be interesting to see how he recovers from the broken fibula. Grade: C+

Shawn Andrews – It was a lost season for Andrews. Battled depression throughout the off-season and into training camp. Then a Week 2 back ailment kept him sidelined the rest of ’08. Had surgery to repair a herniated disc. His future is a bit of a question mark. Andrews has always been an odd Bird. Grade: Incomplete

Here’s one possible scenario that might play out: We all know Reid loves the bigs, and it’s likely one will be picked in the first round. If Thomas leaves and Herremans slides to left tackle, then a guard will be needed. If Runyan leaves and Andrews shifts to right tackle, they still need a guard. Draft Duke Robinson from Oklahoma. The top-rated guard in the draft can play either position and this will allow both Jean-Gilles and Cole to remain on the bench for depth. Now, this only makes sense if either Thomas or Runyan stays.

If the Eagles do not retain either or both Runyan and Thomas, they will have to do some serious scrambling. Whatever they decide, at least one lineman will be targeted in the draft. With two first round picks, the Birds have the ammunition to land at least one blue-chip prospect. Tomorrow, we shift to the defensive side of the ball. I’ll begin with the defensive line. Until then….