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Offseason Preview: Guard, Center

Posted Jan 16, 2012

The interior of the offensive line was overhauled in the offseason thanks to new offensive line coach Howard Mudd. By the end of the season, the Eagles boasted two rookies and a veteran journeyman in the three spots. Let's see how Mudd's magic fared with the guard and center positions along the offensive line and what lies ahead at these spots ...

2011 Season In Review

Two draft picks helped lay the foundation to solidify the interior of the offensive line for the foreseeable future in Philadelphia.

Sixth-round pick Jason Kelce started all 16 games as a rookie at center and was very impressive, allowing just one sack. He ranked as the NFL’s second-best blocker on screen passes from the center position, according to Pro Football Focus.

First-round draft pick Danny Watkins started the final 12 games at right guard and, according to Pro Football Focus, did not allow a single sack. Watkins and Kelce are the first Eagles rookie offensive line tandem to start at least 12 games in a season.

With a new starter at each of the three interior positions, the core of the Eagles offensive line was a question mark going into 2011. The opening-day starters at the guard positions were Evan Mathis and Kyle DeVan. Mathis signed with the Eagles during training camp and the former journeyman came to town in the best shape of his career as he dropped 35 pounds of fat and put on 13 pounds of muscle mass. DeVan was acquired off waivers from the Colts the week prior to the start of the regular season. DeVan was familiar with Mudd’s scheme and served as a mentor to the rookie linemen.

Impressive Stat

Dynamic running back LeSean McCoy averaged a healthy 4.4 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns when rushing behind the Eagles’ interior linemen in 2011.

End Of Season Depth Chart

LG: 1. Evan Mathis (UFA), 2. King Dunlap (UFA)
C:  1. Jason Kelce, 2. Jamaal Jackson
RG: 1. Danny Watkins, 2. Julian Vandervelde

To Be Answered

The biggest question mark this offseason at this position will be whether or not the Eagles re-sign guard Evan Mathis. The 6-6 veteran is close with his fellow linemen, especially rookie Jason Kelce, and has stated that Howard Mudd’s blocking scheme fits his skill set better than any other system he’s played in to date.

After that, how impressive will last year’s rookies Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins be if they attack the offseason program since they can get the work with Mudd that they were not afforded due to the lockout last year. Keep an eye on another 2011 rookie in Julian Vandervelde, who will look to push for playing time in 2012.

Will Jamaal Jackson return as a backup? Jackson is the longest-tenured Eagle and was a consummate professional all year after losing his starting job at center to Kelce. If the Eagles do not plan to keep Jackson, they will have to find an alternate solution to backup Kelce.

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