Philadelphia Eagles News

Domino effect: Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor ready if called upon

For the first time in a long time, the Eagles have some uncertainty along the offensive line.

For years, the Eagles have largely enjoyed stability rarely seen in the NFL with its starters up front. Even with injuries, the unit has been seen as a strength of a team that has made three consecutive trips to the postseason, one of only four NFL teams with such a current streak.

Things will be different in 2020.

Before the Eagles even took the field for Training Camp, Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks suffered an Achilles injury. And on Sunday, Head Coach Doug Pederson officially announced that second-year tackle Andre Dillard suffered a biceps injury. Both ailments will sideline them for the entirety of the 2020 season.

The Eagles are still left with an accomplished core group of Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, and Jason Peters, but behind them, is a group of young, hungry, yet mostly unproven group of linemen.

The true depth of the Eagles' offensive line will put the test in 2020. Fortunately, they have arguably the best offensive line coach in all of football in Jeff Stoutland, who has been preparing the youthful group for this very situation, should it arise, since they all arrived at the NovaCare Complex.

One of Stoutland's central tenets as a coach is to cross-train players to play virtually every position along the offensive line and have full knowledge of their teammates' responsibilities are so that they know the entire scope of the system.

"He's intense, but he's really passionate about it," Matt Pryor said of Stoutland on Saturday. "When a rookie comes in, he's really hard on them understanding the offense and understanding the, 'Why?'"

Pryor is perhaps the best example of this among the young blockers, who is listed as a guard/tackle and told reports Saturday that he feels comfortable playing every position except center. He did not acquire a lot of game experience during his first two seasons in Philadelphia but filled in admirably for Brooks late in the 2019 season – including the playoffs – at right guard. The sample size may be small, but Pryor believes he is prepared for whatever comes his way in 2020.

"Whatever opportunity I get, I'm going to put my full effort on it," Pryor said.

Even with limited playing time, Pryor is the so-called veteran among the group of youngsters. Jordan Mailata is also entering his third season, but is the least experienced.

That is because Mailata did not even put on a football helmet until he began training to become an NFL player at the IMG Academy in 2018 before the NFL Draft. Before that, he enjoyed a successful career as a rugby player.

After being the Eagles' final draft pick that year, Mailata has spent the bulk of his first two seasons on Injured Reserve with a back injury. When he did suit up to play, it was mostly in preseason action.

There is no preseason to speak of in 2020, so Mailata will have to be ready to play without it. Despite the lack of reps, the Australia native feels "very confident and very prepared."

"All around, all aspects of my games have improved," Mailata said on Saturday. "The game has slowed down so much for me. It's my third year in this system and the playbook, and from Year 1 to now, I just feel like everything has slowed down. I can make calls, I'm able to assess coverages, and know what I'm doing."

"It's just a big difference," he added. "I'm not second-guessing what I do, just go out there and just play the game like a normal footballer."

Pryor has seen every step of Mailata's progression to this point and is also confident that the Australian native is ready to contribute this season.

"When he first came in, it was just raw talent," Pryor said of Mailata. "Dude's athletic, he's physical, and it just comes down to getting to know football as a whole. I think that over these past two years, I think that's something he's gotten the hang of is knowing the sport, knowing the position, and getting into the playbook, and understanding the schemes."

Mailata told reporters that he made up for his lack of physical reps while sidelined with an abundance of mental ones. It was something that Stoutland insisted Mailata get a lot of during his time out due to injury. In Stoutland's mind, you can never be bored of doing the same thing over and over.

Stoutland's message will be especially important in 2020, as repetition will be the only way the Eagles' offensive line can build the chemistry necessary to maintain its status as one of the league's best.

Pryor and Mailata, will be joined the likes of Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll, and Prince Tega Wanogho, among others, in making sure that happens.

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