Philadelphia Eagles News

Early Camp Focus Has To Be On O Line

In terms of renovations, it is a massive one. The Eagles have 60 percent of their offensive line moved changed, and for a position that requires cohesiveness, timing and 100 percent perfect communication, it is a scary proposition. Juan Castillo, then, has his hands as full as any assistant coach in the league when training camp begins at Lehigh University in a couple of weeks.

It's just the way it is. The offense can't function without a good offensive line and the Eagles again showed how much they understand that by making huge moves to sign Stacy Andrews in free agency and then to trade for Jason Peters. They have made a bold move to shift Shawn Andrews to right tackle. Three out of the five pieces are different up front from the way the Eagles ended the 2008 season. Only center Jamaal Jackson and left guard Todd Herremans remain intact.

The rest is a puzzle. Castillo needs to make the pieces work.

This isn't going to be a slam dunk, people. I know that training camp is a time to look at the skill-position players and all of the young guys and some of the newest Eagles. Not a lot of folks stand around and watch the grunts along the offensive line. But if there is a No. 1 goal for the Eagles to accomplish coming out of training camp, it is to make sure the offensive line is right, together and prepared to move forward into the regular season.

Minimizing injuries are always at the top of the list, and knowing that Brian Westbrook is good to go for September is clearly a priority. But don't look past the offensive line. Maybe we took for granted that Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan would be there and ready every season. They aren't here now. Thomas is in Jacksonville and Runyan is recovering from knee surgery.

The Eagles have turned over the offensive line and on paper it was done in an impressive manner. But there is so much work to be done. They need to integrate Peters into the offense and truly find out what he can do as an Eagle. Stacy Andrews is still on the mend after his knee surgery, so the Eagles don't quite know exactly how often they can get him on the field in training camp.

A best bet here is that Andrews will practice once a day through camp, and then he will play just a couple of series to open the preseason and then push that snap count higher as the weeks go on. It wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles plan to rotate Andrews in and out of games, even in the regular season, until they know he is full go. That's why having Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole in reserve is so important.

Shawn Andrews has the makings of an All-Pro right tackle, but there is still a lot to learn for Andrews on the edge. He is going to be worth watching in the one-on-one drills in camp. With his footwork, his technique and his size and strength, Andrews has the capability of being simply dominating out there. Can't wait to see him improve every day in training camp. Andrews demonstrated in the spring that his body is right after a tough 2008 season, and that his mind is ready for the challenge of moving outside.

Look, this isn't the glamour spot. Offensive line is for the purists to love. You don't see a whole lot of highlights when you watch linemen go through the step-by-step precision of their practices. It's boring, frankly. Castillo is an animated, terrific coach. He wants each step to be exact. He demands that every hand placement is perfect. The head has to be up, the back arched just so, the balance absolutely correct on every snap.

With all of these new pieces, and with the time precious, Castillo has his work cut out. The good news is that he has great talent with which to work.

And when you watching training camp here, or live at Lehigh, check out the line from time to time and measure the progress. It could very well be the most important part of this summer for the Eagles.

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