Assessing the Eagles: offensive line

LT: Everybody loves to call Jason Peters the most overrated player in football. He’s not. He’s not Walter Jones, but he routinely goes up against the top pass rushers in the league and rarely, if ever, gets help. In addition to being the team’s best run blocker, he is under contract for several more seasons, and is entrenched as the starter on the left side. Behind him, I really like Austin Howard. He’s not ready to play yet, but is huge, athletic, and nasty. He has as much upside as any player on the line, and could be a very good player down the road.

LG: Todd Herremans is a reliable starter at left guard who can do it all. He’s got good size, athleticism, and smarts which make him a perfect fit in the Reid system. He can also kick out to tackle if necessary. He and Peters form a nice tandem on the left side of the line, and can be counted on in the future. As far as depth is concerned, Reggie Wells was a disappointment and now that his contract has expired, I doubt he will be brought back.

C: After two straight season ending injuries, Jamaal Jackson’s future with the Eagles has to be in doubt. He’s a solid starter when healthy, but the Eagles’ patience may be wearing thin as it did in Shawn Andrews’ case. Filling in for him was Mike McGlynn, who started off the year miserably, but showed considerable improvement towards the playoffs. Still, I question whether he mastered the line calls, and he’s a much better fit at guard in my opinion. I would strongly consider taking a center in the third round of the draft such as Florida State’s Rodney Hudson or Penn State’s Stefan Wisniewski to compete for the starting role.

RG: Yes, right guard was a mess, but not as big of a mess as most make it out to be. Many fans and experts use Max Jean-Gilles as the scapegoat for the Eagles’ offensive line woes, but he was the only lineman on the team to have started a game and not allowed a sack or half-sack. Ideally, the Eagles would address this position, but I would not freak out if MJG was slated as the starter in 2011. Justin Blalock, Robert Gallery, or David Bass could be answers in free agency, and players like Lehigh’s William Rackley, Georgia’s Clint Boling, and TCU’s Marcus Cannon should be on the Eagles’ radar on the draft’s second day. Nick Cole should not be invited back to the team as his 2010 campaign was beyond miserable.

RT: The Eagles have two talented players at right tackle in Winston Justice and King Dunlap, but as this position protects Michael Vick’s blind side, the Eagles cannot afford to settle for an average player here. Having a terrible right guard likely would not impede the Eagles’ chances in the playoffs, but having a terrible right tackle certainly would. Jammal Brown and Jared Gaither are two very intriguing free agent targets for the Eagles, as both are supremely talented pass protectors who have experience as their team’s lead tackle. If those options do not work out, I would take Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi in the first round or Alabama’s James Carpenter in the third.

Verdict: Release Nick Cole and Reggie Wells and bring back Max Jean-Gilles. Sign either Jammal Brown or Jared Gaither in free agency, and spend a third round selection on an interior offensive line prospect. As long as two bookend tackles are in place and Howard Mudd develops his young players such as Austin Howard and Mike McGlynn, the offensive line should be fine as long as they are allowed to gel as a group.

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