The absence of left tackle Jason Peters for the 2012 season had a team-wide impact, and the fact is the Eagles dearly missed their All-Pro player from the moment he suffered his torn Achilles tendon. The domino impact along the line of scrimmage was substantial and it negatively impacted the entire performance of the offensive line.
Peters has come back at a safe and secure pace from the injury, and in the instances he has been on the practice field he has been a dominating presence. A hiccup here and there -- more precisely, a hamstring injury -- has kept Peters out of the first two preseason games, but he was on the practice field Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field and he said he aims to play Saturday in Jacksonville.
If all goes according to plan, then, the Eagles will have their starting offensive line intact for the Jags in preseason game No. 3, with Peters at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Todd Herremans at right guard and Lane Johnson at right tackle.
This is significant. This is something about which to be excited. The Eagles have high hopes for the offensive line with new coach Jeff Stoutland running the show, and so far the group has come together and played well. The up-tempo offensive scheme has blended nicely with the athletic line, and the Eagles have had plenty of opportunities in the opening two preseason games to score points.
With Peters back, and aiming to start peaking when the regular season begins on September 9, the Eagles have a chance to be really, really good. Both Kelce (knee injury) and Herremans (ankle) have come back strong after their time on Injured Reserve last season. Mathis, already one of the game's top guards, has adjusted nicely to Stoutland's system. Johnson is off to a tremendous start to his NFL career.
In Peters' absence, the Eagles found out that Allen Barbre can more than hold his own at left tackle, an important part of the depth puzzle here. Barbre can play both tackle and guard, and he may see some time inside at Jacksonville this week.
Having Peters in the lineup gives head coach Chip Kelly options in his offense. Peters is a rare breed with his athletic ability and his dominating run skills, and teaming Peters with Johnson gives the Eagles a tackle tandem that is second to none in terms of foot speed and range. Kelly isn't likely to show much of his offensive gameplan in Jacksonville, but he wants to see how Peters fits in working next to Mathis, playing in this offense that wants to be fast, faster, fastest and how much of a difference Peters makes when the head coach dials up bubble screens and outside runs and creates opportunities on the edge of the formation.
Think of it this way: The Eagles have given us a glimpse of the potential of this offense in the two preseason games, right? Well, they're about to have the most dominating player at his position on this roster report for game duty. Doesn't that push the boundaries of what Kelly can do and what this offense can accomplish even more?
That's how I look at it. I appreciate the value that having a standout like Peters line up and play means to an NFL offense. The days of Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan weren't that long ago, and when the Eagles had those two bookends on the field, the offense functioned at a high level.
This offense is already functioning at a high level -- not high enough for Kelly, of course, and the turnovers must stop right now, but the level is high for a group still being introduced to a new scheme -- and now it has a great player stepping into the lineup at a critical position.
Let's hope there are no setbacks. Peters has worked hard in his rehabilitation. He's a quiet man who goes about his business and sets the standard at his position in the NFL. Seeing him in the lineup is going to mean a great deal for him, naturally, having not play since the 2011 season, and for the Eagles offense.