Continuing down the line, our position snapshot series moves on to the interior offensive line, where one of the potential starters isn’t even included. Eight players, along with the nine tackles profiled yesterday, will be competing for spots along the offensive line under head coach Chip Kelly’s new offensive scheme. The group includes a starter returning from injury, a couple undrafted rookies and the player who was recently dubbed as the best player at his position in the NFL. Take a look …
Jason Kelce – There’s no telling how differently the Eagles’ 2012 season would have turned out if Kelce hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 on a misguided tackle attempt by Ravens safety Ed Reed (who later apologized for the play). Coming off an impressive rookie season in which he started all 16 games, Kelce seemed primed to establish himself as a top-of-the-line center before the injury. The bright side at the time was that the timing of the injury meant Kelce was expected to be ready for the start of the 2013, which seems to be playing out accordingly. Though he was not quite at full strength for the veteran minicamp last month, Kelce is on track and could return as a full participant as soon as next week. As for how the 25-year-old fits into an up-tempo offense, Kelce actually seems made for it. A former linebacker, Kelce has the best 20-yard shuttle time of any offensive lineman at the NFL Scouting Combine since 2006 and ranks in the top 10 in 40-yard dash time and 3-cone drill over that same period.
Evan Mathis – CSNPhilly reported Monday that Mathis underwent a minor ankle procedure and that he’ll miss some time over the next few weeks. Mathis is expected to be 100 percent by Training Camp, though head coach Chip Kelly will likely update the situation later this week. Recently ranked as the sixth-best player in all of football, Mathis projects as another ideal fit for whatever it is Kelly plans to do with the offense. The one lingering question with Mathis is whether he’ll stay at left guard or slide to the right side, where he started 15 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2006, to make room for Todd Herremans at left guard.
Kyle Quinn – An undrafted rookie out of Arizona, Quinn is slated to compete at center, where he was the starter for the last two seasons for the Wildcats. A year ago, in his first year as the starting center, Quinn, of course, worked with quarterback Nick Foles. That familiarity certainly won’t hurt Quinn as he adjusts to life in the NFL. It would seem his primary competition is Matt Tennant and Dallas Reynolds, who started 14 games for the Eagles last season. Quinn, 6-3, 290, is a little more athletic than Reynolds and, like several of his fellow rookies, has mutual familiarity with Kelly from the Pac-12.
Dallas Reynolds – Last summer was Reynolds’ last chance to make an active NFL roster. With his practice squad eligibility used up, Reynolds had to force his way onto the 53-man roster as the backup center, which he did. Of course, Reynolds then played a key role for the Eagles offensive line, starting 14 games in place of the injured Kelce. Reynolds acquitted himself well in the role, though, according to ProFootballFocus, he struggled in run blocking, where he ranked near the bottom of eligible players. But considering it was his first regular season action, Reynolds deserves some benefit of the doubt. The 29-year-old will compete alongside the rest of the offensive line.
Matt Tennant – A fifth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2010, Tennant played in all 16 games as a rookie but was released as part of the final roster cutdown prior to the 2012 season. He then spent the first six weeks on the active roster of the New England Patriots until he was released and subsequently picked up by the Eagles. The former second-team All-ACC member at Boston College will be in the mix for a backup job along the interior line.
Matt Tobin – A versatile lineman at Iowa who played both left tackle and left guard, Tobin, 6-6, 290, signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie. Originally a walk-on at Iowa, Tobin earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors as a senior. Depending on the rest of the rookie minicamp roster, Tobin will likely get work at both guard and tackle.
Julian Vandervelde – After bouncing back and forth last season between the Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Vandervelde stuck in Philadelphia through the offseason. Vandervelde’s selling point when the Eagles drafted him in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft was his unique athleticism for the position. As with Kelce, those traits project as beneficial under Kelly, though Vandervelde is one of many offensive linemen in the mix for a backup job. When compared against other guards, Vandervelde’s Scouting Combine measurables compare well to several long-time starting NFL guards like Vince Manuwai and Andy Levitre.
Danny Watkins – Displaced as a starter last season, Watkins, newly married in the offseason, has said that he welcomes the changing of the guard in Philadelphia with open arms. But with Jason Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Herremans and Johnson penciled in as the top five, Watkins will have to seriously impress before the regular season if he’s to regain a starting role. Watkins will reportedly work as a left guard over the next few weeks as Mathis recovers from the reported ankle procedure which should serve as an opportunity to display some versatility. Watkins has generally been a solid run blocker, so carving out a niche as a road grader could help him moving forward.
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