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Spadaro: Jeff Stoutland vows to keep offensive line one step ahead

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

If it's Thursday and you are watching the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex in this 2023 Training Camp, you might notice rookie Tyler Steen playing right guard, learning his way around the NFL at that interior offensive lineman position. If it's Friday, you may see Steen at left tackle demonstrating the footwork that earned him a starting role at the University of Alabama. Come for back-to-back days or even one day one week and one day the next week and you could see Cam Jurgens playing right guard and center and pieces like Jack Driscoll and Dennis Kelly moving up and down the line.

This is the way of Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Jeff Stoutland, the legendary master strategist who understands that quality reps now will translate to reliable game action later in the year. This is the way he organizes his offensive line, again destined to be one of the very best in the league. Stoutland isn't the only one who moves his chess pieces around; he's just one of the best at making it all come together. The rest of the offensive line coaches in the league have paid attention to Stoutland since he joined the Eagles in 2013 and the standard is exceptionally high.

"It's so early right now. That's the great part of this whole thing," Stoutland said the other day when asked about Steen, a third-round draft pick in the spring. "We lost some good players last year that were here, so to be able to find out the position swing-value of a player, to be able to do things now early, before the stuff really starts, is extremely valuable. You cannot wait. You know how we've done it around here. We don't wait for that. We build our depth. We get our people where we need to have them and if something were to occur, we're way ahead. We're one step ahead of it."

Stoutland is looking for consistency, of course, something he impresses upon his players every single day. They do the offensive line dance each time they're on the field and while it looks monotonous and probably very much feels that way to the men doing it, it means everything. Left foot, right foot, hand placement, leverage, timing, awareness, intelligence, ability to move. Stoutland has a list of critical factors to look for in linemen and he stays true to that list.

The offensive line, featuring four starters returning from 2022 with Jordan Mailata at left tackle, Landon Dickerson at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, and Lane Johnson at right tackle – provides Stoutland the comfort of knowing what he has in four-fifths of his starting group as we stand in August. And what a group it is, with Kelce, Johnson, and Dickerson all Pro Bowl players and Mailata a Pro Bowl alternate a season ago.

"Continuity and consistency, those are the most important things to having success up front," Johnson said. "We know that Stout is the best and that he's going to bring out the best in us, so it's key that we do things right in practice and that will take us into the games. Need to be healthy, of course, and be consistent with what you're doing."

Right guard is the position of interest among the starters and Jurgens, a second-round pick in '22, is taking many of the starting reps there. He wowed everybody with the way he played center in last summer's preseason and now he's vying to start between Kelce and Johnson. It is early and the first preseason game is still a few days away, but Jurgens has impressed Stoutland with his core strength and his foot and body quickness.

"I'm very happy with what he's doing," Stoutland said. "I'm not one to throw sugar all over the place. I want to make sure that ... we've got a lot of work to do still."

There is always work to do. Stoutland is a teacher, first and foremost, and he has a whole lot of talent to work with in this offensive line room. The Eagles have to be prepared for anything to happen in the season ahead because, of course, Stoutland has seen it all and knows how crazy the whole, long season can be. You know the Eagles' offensive line is in the greatest hands possible, so enjoy the view. You may not know who is lining up where from one day to the next, but that's part of the brilliance of Jeff Stoutland and what the Eagles are doing up front at the line of scrimmage offensively.

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