Sep 7, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guardEvan Mathis
(69) is checked on by the team doctors during the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eagles Offensive Line Woes Have Silver Lining
The Philadelphia Eagles have had a series of mishaps to their two starting offensive linemen to start the season. On Sunday in the 34-17 come from behind victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars both Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis and right tackle Allen Barbre feel to injury. Before the season began, the Eagles learned that starting right tackle Lane Johnson would be suspended for the first four games. Moreso, reserves Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin were nicked up, but are expected back to full health early in the season. But, just as rain clouds, the Eagles offensive line woes may have a silver lining.
Yes, That’s right.
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In every season, there is invariably a team or two which is described as “peaking at the right time” or “getting hot down the stretch run” or even “making a push for the playoffs”. If you ever stopped to wonder why teams don’t do that all year, understand that it’s basically a 3 part season. There is the first 4 games or so that rank teams in a pecking order format. Then there is the period of weeks where teams have bye weeks, and the NFL plays a lighter schedule of games. Good teams find ways to win, while teams still rebuilding begin to show signs of weakness. Then, at the end of the season, teams make their final push to get into the playoffs, secure a bye week, or simply end the season with positive momentum.
So how does this impact the Eagle in a positive way? Well, the Eagles offensive line, as battered as it is, is still filled with three of the five starters from last year. Adding to that, Lane Johnson’s suspension ends after four weeks. That will begin a two game home stretch facing the St. Louis Rams and then the division rival New York Giants before the Eagles enter their early bye week.
Thrusting himself back into the lineup will probably be a phased in process, giving Lane a chance to “synch” back with the starting offensive line unit. But long before then, the Eagles anticipate the return of Dennis Kelly, who will start at left guard in place of injured guard Evan Mathis. Kelly had a solid preseason, and is himself back after a year’s convalescence following back surgery.
Soon, a second reserve offensive lineman will be cleared to play in the form of Matt Tobin. Tobin is arguably the best reserve on the team this year, but suffered a high-ankle sprain in the last preseason game versus the New York Jets. Just in his second year, the 6’6″ 303 second year offensive tackle is still healing, but hopefully he will be available when the Eagles travel west to face the San Francisco 49er’s.
Finally, the return of pro bowler left guard Evan Mathis is likely to happen on or about the time the Eagles travel to face the surprisingly good Houston Texans on Sunday, November 2. So by the time the second half of the season begins, the team should have reassembled their starting offensive line. If nobody else is injured, they will be back together in time to make another run to the playoffs.
To meet the short term crunch of the offensive line, as reserves and starters heal or serve their suspension, the Eagles pulled a pretty good name out of the hat in signing offensive guard Wade Smith. Smith has been in the NFL for ten years, and has been a pro bowl guard as recently as 2012 before a knee injury. He should learn the Eagles offense rather quickly, as ESPN Adam Caplan tweeted that the University of Texas blocking scheme was very similar.
#Eagles blocking scheme is similar to what Wade Smith played in with the #Texans. He fits in at LG. – Adam Caplan
In the meantime, reserve linemen who have played well and earned a spot on the roster will be able to get invaluable playing experience. That is huge as the team enters the second half of the season and relies upon the entire roster to make plays. So what do you think? Is this set of injuries a black eye to the Eagles chances? Or do you see the eventual return of the starters by the midpoint of the season as something that may benefit this team?
It’s a long season. If health issues do not plague the Eagles, they remain one of the teams in the discussion for post season. The Monday Night Football game against the Indianapolis Colts will tell us quite a bit about the team. By the time the Eagles offensive line reforms in mid season, two of the five starters will be relatively fresh. On the bench the Eagles will have linemen who have started. And if they are at or better than .500, that will be a huge advantage entering the last stages of 2014.
So its a good conclusion that the Eagles offensive line woes have a silver lining after all.