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Jeff Stoutland: Veteran experience combines with promising youth along offensive line

The offensive line returns intact from 2018. The Eagles used a first-round draft pick on tackle Andre Dillard. Jordan Mailata, entering his second season, is a year older and a year wiser in the game of football.

Things are looking up, way up, for the Eagles' offensive line and coach Jeff Stoutland.

"I feel like we're going to get after it and have some great competition in Training Camp," Stoutland said. "It's a great thrill for me to work with this group every day and see them all improving."

Dillard was, shockingly to the Eagles, available later in the first round than the team thought. Stoutland became convinced Dillard was the right man after a Skype conversation that validated everything that Stoutland saw on tape from Dillard at Washington State – his foot and body quickness, his economy of movement, his balance.

"Those kinds of things, to me, are glaring on the film," Stoutland said. "And he's that way on the field out there. Consistent improvement. He improves every day, but he's exactly what he was as we evaluated him. He's just a smooth, great athlete.

"A lot of people have said that his weakness is run blocking. I've heard that a million times. I kind of needled him with that a little bit. I don't necessarily believe that. Just because a player wasn't asked to do that in college doesn't mean that he's deficient in that area. We do a lot of things here where we combination block. If we're going to combination block, one of the important factors is for the trail player to get into the hip, to get hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. To be able to do that, you have to be able to close the distance. Man, can he close the distance.

"All the stuff that we looked at on film is exactly who he is."

The plan is for Dillard to learn in 2019 as veteran Jason Peters returns to play left tackle, but you know how plans can change during the course of a season. So far, the Eagles are pleased with the progress Dillard is making, understand that he still has a long, long way to go to get to where the Eagles think he can be.

Stoutland also spoke highly of Mailata, a seventh-round draft pick in 2018 after having never played the game of football. A full year later, Mailata is a different player now playing right tackle, a new position, particularly from a mental-capacity standpoint.

"It's been a fun process and I give him a lot of credit. He has made progress, I mean big progress, much more than a lot of other guys because he had so much more to learn," Stoutland said. "I'm proud of the progress that he's made. He now knows, when I explain something to him, he gets it. Before, I think it was a little fuzzy."

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