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Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

Posted Jul 19, 2014

A Look At The Offensive Linemen
Name Age Exp. Note
Josh Andrews 23 R Battled Chip Kelly's teams at Oregon State
Michael Bamiro 23 1 Incredible size, how much has he learned in a year?
Allen Barbre 30 7 Reliable veteran earned three-year extension
Karim Barton 21 R Overcame amazing odds to make it to NFL
Andrew Gardner 28 5 Played in zone-blocking scheme in Houston
Kevin Graf 23 R Three-year starter at USC
Donald Hawkins 22 R Big, athletic tackle moving inside to guard
Todd Herremans 31 10 A consistent presence, longest-tenured Eagle
Lane Johnson 24 2 Can he build off rookie season?
Jason Kelce 26 4 One of NFL's top centers, rewarded with new deal
Dennis Kelly 24 3 Didn't play in 2013 after back surgery
Evan Mathis 32 10 Reliable guard enters fourth season with team
David Molk 25 2 New addition, can he win backup center job?
Jason Peters 32 11 Few players are as dominant at their position
Matt Tobin 23 2 Chip Kelly praised his versatility
Julian Vandervelde 26 3 Looks to solidify backup center spot

Offensive Line

The Big Questions

1. We know the starters, but how much depth is there on the offensive line?

In 2013, the Eagles started the same five offensive linemen in all 16 regular season games. For any team, starting the same group in every game is an impressive feat, but it was even more impressive for the Eagles given the circumstances.

Lane Johnson, the fourth-overall draft pick, was thought of as an instant starter, but it’s sometimes difficult to foresee a rookie starting every game. Two of the other starters were coming off of significant injuries. Jason Kelce had surgery to repair his ACL and MCL, and Jason Peters was back to action after injuring his Achilles tendon not once, but twice.

Even with all of that, the offensive line stayed intact for the entire season. The Eagles ran 1,104 offensive plays in 2013. Out of a possible 5,520 combined snaps for the five offensive line positions, the starters played 5,426 of them. The five starters missed a combined 94 snaps, 51 one of which came when Peters left the Green Bay game after just 10 snaps.

Will we learn more about the depth of the offensive line in this year's Training Camp? We know that when Peters went down against the Packers, veteran Allen Barbre stepped in and played well. Barbre was rewarded with a three-year contract extension this past offseason. Barbre is a veteran who is capable of playing both tackle and guard. We all know how much Chip Kelly values versatile players, and Barbre is a great example. He is the jack of all trades who can be plugged in just about anywhere on the offensive line.

After Barbre though, the Eagles are very, very young when it comes to backup linemen. Julian Vandervelde, the Eagles' fifth-round draft pick in 2011, can also play both guard and center. Dennis Kelly started 10 games at tackle and guard for the Eagles in 2012, but didn't play in 2013 after undergoing back surgery. Andrew Gardner has played in eight games over the course of four seasons.

The Eagles also have a host of even younger players who haven’t seen much, if any, NFL action. These players - Josh Andrews, Michael Bamiro, Karim Barton, Donald Hawkins, David Molk and Matt Tobin - very well could be the right pieces to fill the backup roles, but it’s difficult to say at this point.

2. Can the line be as dominant in 2014?

When Chip Kelly was hired as the Eagles' head coach, it became very evident that the Eagles would be a team built on the running game, and that is exactly what happened. LeSean McCoy ran wild for 1,607 yards, the best rushing season in Eagles history. He won the NFL's rushing title and catapulted himself to the elite level of the league's rushers. And while McCoy was the one grabbing all of the headlines and media attention, it was his linemen that paved that way for his success. McCoy praised his linemen again and again throughout the season, and rightfully so.

While there were a number of plays where McCoy would improvise and give the defenders the old “shake and bake” move, many of McCoy’s best runs came when he ran north-south instead of east-west.

Another staple of Kelly’s offense was the screen play, and the Eagles ran a lot of them. Often times, the Eagles' screen plays featured misdirection and other exotic looks, but the offensive line was up to the challenge. The key to a good screen is getting the lineman out in front of the play as quickly as possible, and there are few - if any - NFL lines more athletic than the Eagles. Kelce, who has since signed a new seven-year contract, was the catalyst of the line and while he isn’t the biggest center in the league, he is arguably the most athletic.

And while Kelce is an up-and-comer in the league with a very bright future, the Eagles have two members of the line who are among the best at their respective positions. Evan Mathis earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors at left guard for his performance in 2013. The man who lined up to Mathis’ left isn’t too shabby either. Since Jason Peters was acquired from Buffalo in 2009, he’s been the best tackle in the NFC, if not the entire NFL. Like Kelce, Peters signed a new long-term contract this offseason. He then said in his press conference that he wanted to retire as an Eagle, and that thought should cause for many happy fans.

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