There are only so many practice reps to take in the next 14 days to prepare an offensive line that has taken two significant hits prior to the start of the 2020 regular season – losing Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks in the spring with a torn Achilles tendon and seeing left tackle Andre Dillard suffer a season-ending biceps injury Thursday in practice.
Now, the clock is ticking – there's a scrimmage on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field before next Saturday's cutdown to 53 players, and then the regular-season opener in Washington on September 13 – and the Eagles face the kind of pre-regular season adversity they haven't experienced in a long, long time: Who plays left tackle with Dillard down? Veteran Jason Peters seems to be the obvious choice, but he was signed back prior to Training Camp to replace Brooks at right guard. If it's Peters, OK, it wouldn't take him long to get up to speed at left tackle, but then there's the question of whether a 38-year-old man in his 17th NFL season is up to the task for 16 games, and then some.
If it's not Peters at left tackle, then it would likely come down to the following players on the current roster …
Jordan Mailata: A third-year player who spent the first two seasons of his American football life on Injured Reserve and has never played in an NFL regular-season game has made strides on the field in this camp. He would have benefitted as much as anyone on the team playing in preseason games, but dems the breaks. Every NFL team is experiencing the same thing – you can't make up for lost on-field practice reps. As wonderous as Mailata is with his athletic ability – oh, those feet! – and his size – 6-8, 346 pounds is ginormous – he's equally inexperienced on the field.
"He had a really good week," Pederson said of Mailata. "Getting back out there now and getting comfortable with the position and the pads on, because he did miss a little bit of time in camp, kind of going through the walkthroughs, but now that he's had a chance to go through some padded practices, he's done a really nice job. He's a massive human being, as we know, he moves really well. He still needs to focus on some fundamental things, but he's done a nice job."
Matt Pryor: Another third-year player who had some game experience last season at right guard when Brooks was injured – Pryor started and played well in the postseason loss to Seattle – Pryor has taken reps this summer at right guard, right tackle, and left tackle. And now he's in the mix to start somewhere – right guard if Peters goes to left tackle and even, as Pederson said on Saturday, left tackle itself. All of a sudden, Matt Pryor and his versatility is giving him a chance to be a full-time starter.
"He's had a consistent camp," Pederson said or Pryor. "He's another one that's got game experience for us, so that goes a long way for him."
Jack Driscoll: The rookie from Auburn looks professional on the field. He's learning the techniques. He seems to be picking up things quickly. In one-on-one drills against defensive linemen, he is scrappy, and he battles and he's physical and tough. Is that enough to earn a starting job at left tackle (he played exclusively on the right side in last two years at Auburn) – seems to be a legitimate question, right? – or even inside at guard. Or, it could be that the Eagles see Driscoll as that Halapoulivaati Vaitai-kind of lineman who can play multiple positions. Stoutland is leaning on this fourth-round draft pick to hurry up and learn everything in a crunch time. It's not all that fair to the kid, but that's the business.
"He's come along. He's a sharp guy," Pederson said of Driscoll. "He details his work from the standpoint of being able to take it from the classroom out on the practice field. Physical guy, just learning the position and playing at this level, the speed of the game, but he's been able to handle it pretty well."
Other options? You just know that Howie Roseman has his lists and he's checking them twice and thrice, either to sign a veteran who is on the streets or to make a trade. We're at E (for Eagles)-minus two weeks-and-a-day until the opener at Washington and the Football Team's most excellent (I couldn't miss the third installment of the Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure series, sorry) defensive front that is going to go after the Eagles at the line of scrimmage. The coaching staff will certainly add in some adjustments – max protect, roll quarterback Carson Wentz out of the pocket, some heavy offensive line combinations – but there are going to be immediate needs to have answers at left tackle, right guard, and with depth and trust of players who simply have no NFL experience.
We're moving on with confidence, says the head coach.
"We react positively," Pederson said. "It's something that we know – injuries are a part of our game, part of our sport. It happens. It's unfortunate, what happened with Andre that he's obviously going to miss the season. We brought Jason Peters back, obviously, for a reason, to replace Brandon Brooks at right guard and we know he can play left tackle, but we've also got some young players that we're interested in looking at further.
"We've got some time here before we play. Great opportunity for some young guys. Obviously, it does thin us out. … We're moving full-steam ahead and we're moving with the guys we have."
Check out the best practice photos from this week in Eagles Training Camp!