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Isaac Seumalo: 'My best football is in front of me'

The way Isaac Seumalo sees it, all of the versatility he showed at Oregon State when he played four different offensive line positions, and the flexibility he provided to the Eagles early in his career, lining up as a right tackle, a center, and a left guard – all of that was great. It's always important to show the coaching staff what you can do in a pinch, right? Playing a bunch of positions can only help in the long term. That's what they say in the NFL.

But Seumalo wants to be an impact player at one position and now that he's firmly entrenched at left guard, that's his goal.

"It's been a blessing to play every spot and kind of excel at that, but at the same time it's good to be at one spot and be able to focus on that," said Seumalo in an exclusive telephone interview on Monday, minutes after the Eagles announced his contract extension through the 2022 season. "I want to be a master of the craft at left guard and I feel like I'm on my way. I'm happy about that. I feel like I've gotten a lot better the more I've played the position and I think my best football is in front of me."

Seumalo has gone through a lot in his three Eagles seasons since the team made him a third-round draft pick in 2016. He played sparingly but showed promise in a rookie season during which he saw action in nine games, with four starts and 30 percent of the offensive snaps. The Eagles moved him into the starting position at left guard in the 2017 preseason, but Seumalo struggled early in the regular season and was replaced by Stefen Wisniewski after just two games.

That kind of setback can often send a young player into a tailspin that's hard to reverse. While the remainder of 2017 was tough on Seumalo – he played in just 25 percent of the team's snaps, many of them coming after those first two games as a tackle-eligible extra blocker – he kept his head down and continued to work as the Eagles roared through the regular season and a postseason that ended up with a Super Bowl Championship.

The Eagles did not give up on Seumalo, even as Wisniewski, a valuable player at both guard positions and at center, started at left guard to begin 2018. Seumalo added 20 pounds of strength in the offseason between the Super Bowl and September, giving him a better chance to anchor in the trenches. After a quarter of the regular season, Seumalo replaced Wisniewski in the starting lineup and steadily improved until a pectoral injury sidelined him for three games late in the year.

Once he was healthy as the Eagles went into the playoffs, Seumalo was reinserted into the starting lineup.

"I'm really thankful that the team stuck with me and that they're giving me this opportunity with the contract," said Seumalo, who is doing his offseason training in Southern California. "I'm super-grateful. I've put a lot of work into this after the setback from 2017 and I'm going to keep being me and doing what's gotten me to this point. I felt really good looking back on the year and how I played. There is always going to be stuff that you want to improve. You want to be perfect. That's the goal. Game by game, though, I think I played better and better.

"For sure, my best football is still to come. I'm excited to be in Philly and keep working and improving. We've got a lot of great pieces and we're all working hard to get better."

The next step for Seumalo is to put it all together for an entire season, for 16 solid weeks and everything that comes after that. He'll be in Philadelphia when the offseason conditioning program begins in April and he'll again be under the tutelage of offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland, who knows how to get the best out of his players with his passion, his dedication to the craft, and his demand to do all the little things right.

Those on the offensive line speak with reverence for Stoutland, one of the best coaches at his position in the NFL.

"He's been a huge help to me," Seumalo said. "He coaches you hard. He's super-detailed and he'll get on you. We know that he loves us and that he wants us to be the best we can be. He's meant a lot to me and I appreciate everything he's done for me."

Young, rising offensive linemen in the NFL are treasured and the Eagles have always valued the importance of the offensive line. They've signed Jason Kelce and Seumalo to extensions in the last few days, and they have all of the starters along the line under contract. One of the best lines in the league should remain outstanding, and hopefully gets better as Seumalo takes his best steps forward in 2019 and beyond.

The Eagles have just started in this offseason, but they've followed the blueprint precisely early with contract extensions for the two offensive linemen and defensive end Brandon Graham. The Eagles, as they've done for years, are building from the inside out, and in Seumalo they've got a young interior lineman who has his entire career right in front of him.

Patience for the Eagles and for Seumalo has paid off in the form of this new contract. Seumalo has taken some time to put it all together, but now he's here, with an arrow very much pointing in the right direction.

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