There aren’t nine O-lines better than the Philadelphia Eagles, or are there?
Just how good were Jason Peters and Brandon Brooks for the Philadelphia Eagles last season? Well, if we’re being honest, that one’s a little hard to quantify, but here’s a serious question as we all try to shed a little light on what to expect from Carson Wentz‘s bodyguards in 2020.
Does the absence of both Peters and Brooks in 2020 mean that Philly’s offensive line is in danger of falling out of the top ten of the best offensive lines in the NFL?
That may actually be the case. With that being said, let’s do a little digging.
PFF has yet another ranking that may upset the Philadelphia Eagles fan base.
Recently, the football world’s most talked about, most criticized, and most trusted stat guys at Pro Football Focus (depending on who you’re talking to of course) released their ranking of every NFL team’s offensive line heading into the 2020 regular season. Philly who, just under three years ago, won the Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year Award on the night before Super Bowl 52, came in tenth after closing the 2019 season as PFF’s highest-graded offensive line.
The rest of the top ten fell as follows from top to bottom. The Indianapolis Colts are first, and they’ll need a strong O-line with a stationary Philip Rivers. They’re followed by the New Orleans Saints (second), the Dallas Cowboys (third), the Green Bay Packers (fourth), the Baltimore Ravens (fifth), the Cleveland Browns (sixth), the New England Patriots (seventh), the San Francisco 49ers (eighth), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (ninth).
Sure, much can change in a couple of seasons. We also know that it’s hard to base everything on PFF rankings. They’ll find a way to tell you that Dak Prescott is somehow better than Patrick Mahomes if you allow them to, but they’ve always been complimentary of Philly’s offensive line during the Doug Pederson era. So, what’s the reason for the drop?
The only difference between Philly’s current crop of starting offensive linemen and the lineup we saw be named as the best in the league in February of 2018 is Jason Peters is gone and Brandon Brooks is injured. They’ll be replaced in 2020 by Andre Dillard and Matt Pryor. Then there’s this. One of the league’s best but most underrated reserves, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, plays for the Detroit Lions now. Is that the reason Philly is barely hanging on to a top-ten ranking? Are there really nine offensive lines that are better?
Here’s some of what Steve Palazzolo, the writer of this one, had to say:
"The Eagles annually boast one of the best offensive lines in the league, and they finished No. 1 at the conclusion of the 2019 regular season. It will be difficult to repeat that feat without star left tackle Jason Peters and PFF All-Pro guard Brandon Brooks… The good news is Dillard’s track record at Washington State, where his pass-blocking grade on true pass sets is the fifth-best we’ve seen from any college player moving to the NFL."
Hang in there. Here’s more.
"Replacing Brooks at right guard will be a big task, as he’s among the top two or three guards in the league. 2018 sixth-round pick Matt Pryor will be in the mix in addition to rookie fourth-rounder Jack Driscoll. Pryor graded out at 60.9 on 143 snaps as a rookie, while Driscoll was one of our favorite developmental tackle options in the draft, though he’s a much better pass protector than run blocker. The Eagles should be strong again upfront, but with Peters and Brooks out of the equation, it will be difficult to achieve another top-five ranking."
Let’s hope things work out well for this unit and Pryor and Dillard both blossom. The Eagles drafted both of the Auburn Tigers’ starting offensive tackles in the most recent NFL Draft. There are also some guys who have been with this team for a while like Sua Opeta. The “Birds” have some insurance if someone gets injured.
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen though. Much of the overall success of this team will be predicated on how Carson Wentz develops. Goal number one is keeping him healthy. If that doesn’t happen, even though it feels like it’s been a long season already, it could be even longer if things start spiraling out of control. Are there really nine o-lines that are better than that of the Eagles? Time will tell, but if you love the “Birds”, you have to hope that this is one of those times where PFF may have over-analyzed things.