There is this truth to be self-evident through decades of Eagles football, and it is this: The team always has a solution for the offensive line.
The most recent is bringing back one of the all-time great left tackles, Jason Peters, returning for his 17th NFL season and his 12th season in Philadelphia, to be the starting right guard in 2020 and fill the loss of Brandon Brooks, a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Let's examine this move.
Peters, incredibly talented and a student of the game like no other, has to transition from the tackle position on the left side to the guard position on the right side. This will be a challenge, and Peters is always ready to prove that he's the best offensive lineman on the field on every play. That's his motivation, and when you combine that with Hall of Fame talent and knowledge of the game, it's a heckuva package.
Peters knows the offense, knows what Jeff Stoutland teaches, and knows the rhythm of his fellow linemen. The plan is for him to be the starting right guard, but he also gives the Eagles a two-for-one player, in that he can fill the role of swing tackle as well if needed, with Matt Pryor – who played well late last season when Brooks was out – able to step in at right guard. Last year, the Eagles started eight different offensive linemen, so having depth and flexibility within that group is always important to the Eagles.
Along with that, the Eagles have the chore, like every other team, of bringing along young talent in a condensed learning environment. Of any position group, offensive line suffers the most with the loss of spring practice reps. Repetition is key and the Eagles have had none.
Bringing back Peters provides some continuity, some leadership, and a lot of ability. Andre Dillard starts at left tackle, Isaac Seumalo is the left guard, Jason Kelce plays center, Peters is at right guard, and Lane Johnson brings it at right tackle. That's a line that should come together quickly.
The idea of Peters playing guard at some point in his career is, let's be honest here, something that has been discussed for a long time. I have had many opportunities over the years to sit in Stoutland's NovaCare Complex office talking about a variety of different topics. I once asked him if he thought Peters could ever play the guard position. His answer: Jason Peters can play any position.
We both got the gist. That's how special Peters is as a player.
Of course, he has to do it at age 38 and with who knows how many practice reps and preseason game reps ahead? If anyone can do it, it's the Canton-bound Peters, who is tied for second in franchise history with seven Pro Bowl selections in his first 11 years with the team, not including two all-star nominations while with the Buffalo Bills.
In 2019, Peters started 14 games, including the playoff loss to Seattle. He played 953 offensive snaps – more than 76 percent of the 1,252 total offensive snaps for the regular season and playoffs. He has been a mainstay at the left tackle position since the Eagles acquired him in a trade with the Bills in 2009. It's rare that a blockbuster deal – one that involved giving away three draft picks and awarding Peters a lucrative contract – could be considered a bargain, but that's the case with Peters.
In addition to his outstanding play, Peters' leadership was key in the development of last year's first-round pick Andre Dillard, whom the Eagles trust is ready to take over the left tackle spot. Peters was allowed to test free agency this offseason, although the Eagles maintained that the two sides would remain in communication.
When Brooks ruptured his Achilles tendon during a workout at the NovaCare Complex last month, the Eagles weighed their options with time on their side. With Training Camp approaching, they realized that the best man for the job was in the locker room at the end of last season.
Ever since missing the 2012 season with an Achilles injury, Peters has set out to prove that he can remain one of the elite players in the game. He responded with four consecutive Pro Bowl selections and was well on his way to a fifth in 2017 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through the year. His leadership was instrumental as he helped his replacement Halapoulivaati Vaitai as the Eagles won the first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. On that beautiful night in February 2018, it was Peters who walked into the team's victory celebration with the Lombardi Trophy hoisted above his head.
2020 provides Peters with a chance to close his outstanding career by making a late position switch, which would be a rare feat and another strong argument in his eventual bid for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Stoutland has said several times over the years that we may never see another Jason Peters. Eagles fans now have another opportunity to cherish one of the truly great players in 2020.