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Big Night Ahead For Eagles Offensive Line

Each day they are out there, working through a variety of drills designed to get them back on the football field to help this Eagles offense. Todd Herremans could play a game right now, maybe, while Jamaal Jackson looks at the not-so-distant future and wonders when he will again play the center position for the Eagles.

In the meantime, the Eagles move forward. They have, at this moment, an offensive line that prepares for the preseason opener with some makeshift pieces. Mike McGlynn is the center, replacing Nick Cole who replaced Jackson. Max Jean-Gilles, all slimmed down and looking fine, lines up at left guard, the spot Herremans will regain when he plays again.

It is unlike an Andy Reid-coached team to have a bunch of question marks along the offensive as the preseason opens, so maybe the group is much more advanced than some think. On the surface, though, there are a bunch of question marks up front for the Eagles. Is Herremans going to be OK? How about the center spot, which all of a sudden suffered a loss when Jackson was injured in the Denver game late last season? How about right guard Stacy Andrews? He didn't play much last year, as we all know. Is he going to be a standout, as the Eagles expect?

Right tackle Winston Justice and left tackle Jason Peters range from solid to dominating, so they are not part of the equation of concern.

The rest of the group, though ...

There truly is no other group that has as much on the line -- pun intended -- for Friday night as this group. The Eagles are likely to keep it very simple on offense, and so to judge Kevin Kolb and the rest of the talented cast of characters in one preseason game is taken, to a degree, with a grain of preseason salt.

The offensive line is different, though. You can fairly evaluate one-on-one battles. You can see how the communication process is working. You can see how focused in a player is by the way he gets off the line of scrimmage at the snap count.

Hey, if the Eagles execute the offense, it's going to be in large part because the line played well. If not, the line likely didn't play well.

Just what do the Eagles have going on up front? I'd love to tell you I knew. I think Peters and Justice have enjoyed very strong training camps. I think Andrews looks good, particularly in the run game. Jean-Gilles is moving around so, so much better without all of that excess weight. McGlynn is playing with a bunch of confidence at center. Rookie Austin Howard is a legitimate prospect at tackle, and maybe at guard, too. Dallas Reynolds and A.Q. Shipley are smart guys with some power who are trying to impress.

Otherwise, though, how does anybody know anything? Friday night is welcomed so much in that way.

I will watch very closely. The line has to play with intensity and precision and power. I know that Herremans will be there for the opener. I'm starting to think that Jackson has a shot, or at least won't be too far behind. The Eagles need more depth here, and they need to know going into to the season that they have something up front that they can count on for the 17 weeks of the regular season, and then some.

The focus is going to be on the glamour boys -- quarterback Kevin Kolb, his receivers and backs as well -- but the real story will be the offensive line when the Eagles have the ball. Jacksonville has a fast and physical defense. The Eagles have to punch first and punch last on the line of scrimmage. They have to show some depth and some talent and some depth.

It's all about up front on Friday night. Test number one of the preseason waits for the offensive line.

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