Andrew Gardner is settling in. And for a man who has roamed quite a bit in his five-year NFL career – he had a rookie season in Miami, three years in Houston and is now an Eagle – that is comforting, indeed.
Gardner started the last two games at right guard for an offensive line that seems to have found some stability in an unsettling season, and the Eagles have been mighty pleased with the results. The running game, which was up and down for much of the season, has been on an upward swing in a big way, churning out 164 yards in a 43-24 win over Tennessee and then exploding for 256 ground yards in Thursday's NFC East win at Dallas.
And Gardner has been in the middle of it all, sandwiched between center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson, using his drive-blocking skills with great effectiveness as the Eagles reached the 9-3 mark for the season.
"The whole line has been on the same page and when that happens we do a lot of good things with this offense," Gardner said. "I'm getting more and more comfortable every day. When I have a chance to practice at one position all week and then go out and play that position in a game, I have a good feeling for what I'm doing. I'm all for doing whatever the coaches ask me to do. Being out there is great, and we're coming together quite a bit."
Gardner was signed by the Eagles on March 31 and there was no press conference, no hoopla, hardly a mention by the media, to be honest. The thought then was that Gardner would compete for a roster spot and, who knows, maybe he would make the 53-man roster and give the Eagles a versatile, experienced player who could fill in at tackle or guard.
Gardner has proven to be much more than that. With Johnson out the opening four games because of his NFL suspension, Gardner was the primary backup to Allen Barbre at right tackle entering the year. When Evan Mathis suffered a knee injury in the season opener against Jacksonville, Gardner subbed in at left guard. After Barbre went down for the season with a broken ankle a short time later in the same game, Gardner moved to right tackle ended up playing 59 total snaps between the two positions in the win. Then he started against both Indianapolis and Washington at right tackle before moving into a reserve role when Johnson returned.
When Todd Herremans suffered a torn biceps and was lost for the season four games ago, the Eagles needed an answer at right guard. Matt Tobin started two games there before Gardner replaced him against Tennessee. Gardner has played 405 snaps this year and is, apparently, entrenched at the right guard spot.
"Andrew Gardner will do exactly what you tell him to do," offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said. "He's a very thought-out player. He thinks things through. He understands his angles. He understands where he needs to be in protection. He puts himself in the proper spot, whether it's a run or a protection, to be successful."