Eagles roster: Random thoughts on Jordan Mailata and his backups

Jordan Mailata, Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Jordan Mailata, Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

What a night it was, and for the Philadelphia Eagles, the adrenaline rush came long before Sunday Night Football kicked off. Jordan Mailata made his return after sustaining a shoulder injury that forced him to miss most of Week 4’s game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars and Week 5’s road date with the Arizona Cardinals.

Throw out some periodic struggles by Jack Driscoll versus Micah Parsons. More often than not, when he’s been called upon, he’s been solid. Andre Dillard is back on the active roster as well following a brief stint on the injured reserve.

Eagles general manager/vice president Howie Roseman drafted Mailata, an Aussie Rugby player, in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has helped him develop into one of the best left tackles in the game.

Seeing Mailata back in the lineup was a breath of fresh air. Dillard, though talented, has seen what was once supposed to be his role (being the heir apparent to Jason Peters’ throne) transition to into the capable hands of Number 68.

Unlike Jordan Mailata, Andre Dillard is relatively limited as a pass protector

Andre Dillard was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Washington State. The Cougars offense, then led by Mike Leach, was focused on the Air Raid which means that Dillard was in a two-point stance, in a wide split as a tackle, and staggered against the heel of the guard using a pure man-blocking system called “Big On Big” or “BOB.”

Football is all about matchups, spacing, and angles. In this offensive philosophy, Dillard has time and space to properly drop into his kick slide against the pass rush. This alignment is rarely used in the NFL with the exception of what the Arizona Cardinals do with their O-line.

What this means is that Dillard needs to get used to the narrower splits of the NFL offensive line, three-point stances for linemen on most downs in most systems, a lack of a staggered alignment, and zone blocking in pass protection including concepts as the first color and the most dangerous defender.

Dillard had every advantage in college and in the NFL he has played slow against better defensive linemen, especially during his showing versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.

Unlike Andre, Jack Driscoll was drafted in the fourth round (during the 2020 NFL Draft). He’s played at both UMass and Auburn. He’s more experienced in traditional pro-style offenses. Getting Dillard back was huge for Philadelphia.

He provides depth, but with Jordan Mailata’s star rising and with Driscoll being so good at what he does, don’t be shocked if, at the trade deadline, we’re talking about Andre Dillard as trade collateral again.

Don’t forget about Jack Driscoll because Jordan Mailata is so good.

Like Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll is more than capable. The latter (and Andre Dillard), however, may need more assistance in both pass protection and obvious running situations.

Expect more defensive overload looks as you saw from Dallas when Lane Johnson left the game with an injury. Eventually, Philly figured out what the Cowboys were doing to some degree. Going forward, the best way to fight these overload looks is to use scat protection (six-man protection where a running back has man-blocking responsibility). Typically, you’ll see this versus the weakside outermost defender, and you’ll see the line block from the inside out.

The issue with this strategy is that the Eagles have consistently struggled to find a back that’s great in pass protection. Kenneth Gainwell has widely been regarded as a disappointment in pass protection. Despite that, he’s developed into a talented third-down back. Miles Sanders and Boston Scott are both better in this role, but neither is great at it.

For this reason, the Eagles have used empty formations (no running backs are in the backfield) for many obvious passing situations. Trey Sermon was signed and Kennedy Brooks was drafted to fill this role and solve this problem. Hopefully, at some point soon, both should get looks in scat protection.

The Birds enter a bye week. We trust (and hope) that these are the types of conversations they have when they return to work.