For the first time this spring, the Eagles went left to right with the offensive line they project will be one of the best in the NFL this season: Jason Peters at left tackle, Lane Johnson at right tackle, Jason Kelce at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard, and Allen Barbre/Isaac Seumalo at left guard.
Ah, the present looks bright for the offensive line.
The reason for the optimism, of course, was the presence of Peters on the field for the first time since the Eagles ended the 2016 season with a win in the finale over Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field. Since then, Peters has been absent from voluntary workouts. He attributed missing the work in part to a contract situation and also because he knows, at age 35, how valuable it is to rest his body rather than subjecting it to more wear and tear with every practice rep taken.
As the mandatory minicamp opened, having Peters on the field made such a tangible difference for everyone.
"I feel good and I'm glad to be here," Peters said. "I'm looking forward to having another strong season for this football team, helping this team win."
Someday, and nobody really knows when, the Eagles are going to move Johnson from right tackle to left tackle and Peters will either - become a guard or finish his NFL career. But who knows when that will be? Peters has two years remaining on his contract, a situation that is clearly fluid, and the nine-time Pro Bowl player – seven of those as an Eagle – is focused on the season at hand.
His 2016 was a refreshing reminder of just how good Peters can be. Three years of run-and-gun in the Chip Kelly offense didn't do Peters a whole lot of good, as he just took too many reps and wore down on the practice field before he could get into gameday mode. With head coach Doug Pederson's blessing, Peters is able to take a rep off here and there and preserve his body, his legs, and his mind and save himself for the 60 minutes of action that matter the most.
Peters played all 16 games last season, one that a day earlier offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said was the best Peters had since Stoutland became the line coach here in 2013.
"I think so. I didn't give up too much. I felt strong in the start, throughout the middle, and at the end," Peters said. "And I finished strong, so I felt good."
The importance of a healthy and ready-to-go Peters cannot be overstated. He protects The Franchise's blind side. Peters is the veteran who has added savvy and cunning to his Hall-of-Fame repertoire that already included incredible athleticism and explosiveness and detail in his technique.
One of the greatest to ever play the position, Peters wants to retire as an Eagle and he wants to win a Super Bowl. Having him on the field on Tuesday was hugely important to the team as a whole. He is one of the leaders of a football team intent on making positive steps forward after a 7-9 campaign.
"Jason is a great football player," Pederson said. "He's a Pro Bowl left tackle. He's an anchor on that offensive line. He played 16 games for us and started 16 games for us last year. It's hard to replace a Jason Peters, but at the same time, knowing what he's capable of doing, managing him through not only this minicamp but even through Training Camp, he's the least of my worries. He really is. He's going to get himself ready to go mentally and physically and it's just exciting to get him out here today."
Peters isn't going to last forever, so it's best to appreciate his incredible talents and the imprint he's had on the game. At the same time, the Eagles need him to be at his best in the season ahead. Edge rushers are looking for every advantage they can have on the veteran. They won't stop probing.
"That's part of the challenge, the fun of it," Peters said. "You want to find weaknesses in every player and take advantage of those, so what you do before the game, during the week, can make a big difference. It isn't just taking reps in practice. It's studying film. It's knowing the mental part of things. It's doing a lot of work off the field. I love all of that."
Under a broiling day at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday, No. 71 stepped on the field for the first time this season and made his impact.
"Having Jason out there, we all know what he means to this team," Kelce said. "You know he's going to be ready and you know he's going to be a great player. He is a difference-maker for this football team."