In the days leading up to the start of the 2015 NFL Draft, what are the biggest questions that need to be answered at each position? In our #EaglesDraft Position Preview series, we will explore how each position changed since the start of free agency and how the draft could impact the shape of the roster. Today, we look closely at the offensive line ...
The Look Before Free Agency: The Eagles released their longest-tenured player in guard Todd Herremans, who was a fourth-round pick back in 2005. Herremans started 135 games, including playoffs, during his 10 years with the team. The Eagles got acclimated to life without Herremans as he missed the final eight games of the 2014 season due to a biceps injury. Three of the other four starters from last season earned Pro Bowl honors - center Jason Kelce, guard Evan Mathis and tackle Jason Peters - and remain under contract for the foreseeable future. The fourth starter, tackle Lane Johnson, missed the first four games of the 2014 due to a suspension, but rebounded and graded out as the top right tackle in the league over the final 12 games per Pro Football Focus.
The silver lining to the injuries suffered last season by Kelce and Mathis as well as the early absence of Johnson was the experience that role players like Andrew Gardner, David Molk and Matt Tobin gained. Eight offensive linemen had 400 or more snaps for the Eagles in 2014. A year ago, when the same five players started all 16 games, no one outside of the starting five played more than Allen Barbre's 89 offensive snaps.
After Free Agency: Nothing has changed.
The Eagles were one of the teams in the spotlight throughout free agency, but none of the moves were related to the offensive line.
There was scuttlebutt about the future of Mathis after the Eagles gave him permission to seek a trade. Head coach Chip Kelly said at the NFL Annual Meetings that he hopes Mathis is on the team in 2015, but won't rule out trading anyone, especially after the team dealt quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy this offseason.
The big question is who will fill in for Herremans at right guard. Kelly indicated at the Annual Meetings that Barbre would get the first opportunity. Barbre was the starter at right tackle to start the season opener, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in that first game against Jacksonville.
The Eagles didn't address the offensive line in last year's draft. Two post-draft signings - guard Josh Andrews and tackle Kevin Graf - will look to secure spots on the 53-man roster this year, but don't be surprised to see the team make an effort to infuse more youth into the lineup. There are currently eight non-specialists on the roster who are at least 30 years old. Three of them are currently projected as starters along the offensive line - Barbre, Mathis and Peters.
As we approach the NFL Draft, here's a look at the offensive linemen on the Eagles' roster ...