I've been reflecting on some of the areas where the Eagles needed to improve in the off-season. While the team did almost reach the Super Bowl they were not exactly a juggernaut in the regular season. Now that changes have been made in free agency and the draft, today let's take a look and see just how much the Eagles have improved on the offensive line ...
Pass protection wasn't a problem in 2008. The line, with some help from the running backs and tight ends, generally gave Donovan McNabb a pocket to throw from and decent time back there. Run blocking was an issue. The line had to get younger and tougher. The Eagles decided to pass on re-signing veteran blockers Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. The team was able to pull off a major deal with Buffalo and land tackle Jason Peters. He comes here to take over on the left side. Peters is a major upgrade over Thomas in the run game. The Eagles signed Stacy Andrews in free agency. That gives the line another big, talented guy who can run block.
Shawn Andrews missed almost the entire 2008 season. He is healthy now and excited to be back on the field. He's currently slated to handle the right tackle spot. You can't underestimate his value to the run game. Andrews was great in 2006 and 2007, Westbrook's best seasons.
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Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole got the most playing time of their careers last season. They can now take that experience and build off of it this summer in training camp and the preseason. Both players should show improvement. Jean-Gilles is coming off a bad injury and that is a concern. Mike McGlynn is entering his second season and should show improvement. Young players like King Dunlap, Mike Gibson and Chris Patrick will challenge for roster spots. Then you mix in draft picks like Fenuki Tupou and Paul Fanaika. That is a lot of new and improved bodies for the line.
I absolutely expect the run blocking to be better this year. Peters and Shawn Andrews are outstanding run blockers. Those two will make a difference. Todd Herremans has improved each season. He was the Eagles' best run blocker last year. It wouldn't surprise me to see him play at a Pro Bowl level this season. That leaves a couple of uncertain spots. Jamaal Jackson looked like a Pro Bowl center in 2006, but hasn't played at that level since. He could get pushed by Cole or McGlynn. Newcomer Stacy Andrews has the talent to be really good. The concerns with him are that he's coming off an injury and is learning a new offense. He is also playing at right guard, a spot at which he hasn't played in two years. If Jackson and Stacy Andrews play up to their potential, the offensive line could be amongst the best run blocking units in the entire league and that would be a far cry from what we saw last year.
On Sunday, I'll take a look at the pass rush.