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Lawlor: Winning starts up front

The Eagles have a star quarterback in Carson Wentz. They have talented running backs in Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. They have playmaking receivers, with DeSean Jackson as the speedster and Alshon Jeffery as the big, strong target. Zach Ertz is the best tight end in the NFC and Dallas Goedert has only scratched the surface of his potential.

None of this matters without the offensive line.

Thankfully, you can make a strong argument that the Eagles have one of the deepest, most talented lines in the league.

Jason Peters and Lane Johnson form the best tackle duo in the NFL. Both of them have been voted All-Pro and each guy has multiple Pro Bowl selections. Part of what makes them special is that they can physically dominate defenders in the run game, but also shut down pass rushers.

If you think back to the team's previous dynamic duo of Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, they had strengths and weaknesses. Thomas was the elite pass protector and Runyan the dominant run blocker. Peters and Johnson are on a whole other level.

Jason Kelce is the best center in football. He's been voted All-Pro the past two seasons. The most amazing thing about Kelce is that even though he is 31, he remains an incredible athlete. His ability to pull and block out wide or to get downfield is crazy. You don't see 24-year-old guys doing that as well as him.

Brandon Brooks has played right guard for three seasons in Philadelphia. He was elected to the Pro Bowl after each of the past two years. Brooks is recovering from an Achilles injury. Isaac Seumalo is the least experienced of the starters. He is coming off the best year of his career, having started nine games and played well. Seumalo is critical to the line because of his versatility. He can play all five positions, very rare for a lineman. The coaches are excited about Seumalo's future.

Good line play is about teamwork as much as individual talent. There is great chemistry on the Eagles' line. You see this with the way the linemen execute double-team blocks in the run game. You also see this when they have to handle stunts and blitzes from pass rushers.

You can't rely on just having five good linemen. You need depth and the Eagles have an impressive group of backups.

Stefen Wisniewski recently re-signed with the team, giving them a key piece on the inside. He can play center or either guard spot. Wisniewski started 24 games over the past three years. With Brooks still on the mend, Wisniewski has a chance to get plenty of reps with the starters during the spring.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai is entering his fourth season with the team. Vaitai has 17 career starts in regular-season games. He also started at left tackle in the playoffs in the team's Super Bowl run. Vaitai can play either right or left tackle. Doug Pederson recently mentioned that Vaitai could get some looks at guard. Backup linemen increase their value by being able to play multiple positions.

Rookie Andre Dillard will likely get a lot of work as the backup left tackle this spring and summer. He played left tackle at Washington State and staying in that spot should ease his transition to the NFL. Dillard is a gifted athlete and outstanding pass blocker. Line coach Jeff Stoutland will work to develop Dillard as a run blocker.

There shouldn't be pressure on Dillard to play right away. That doesn't mean the Eagles coaches will take it easy on him. They will push Dillard to see how he handles that. You never know when injuries will hit and opportunities arise.

Jordan Mailata remains one of the most interesting Eagles. He is huge at 6-8 and 346 pounds. Mailata didn't get to play during the 2018 season. The former rugby star is still adjusting to the game of football. He has been learning every day since he arrived in Philly. Mailata remains very much a project, but he is incredibly talented. Guys like that don't always develop at a normal rate. I can't wait to see him in action. Mailata got significantly better during the course of last summer. It will be interesting to see where he is this time around.

The Eagles aren't stopping there. They brought in several talented players as undrafted free agents. You can never have enough good linemen.

Ryan Bates had a terrific career at Penn State. He has a good combination of size and athleticism. Bates could play guard or tackle in the NFL. I thought he would be a mid-round pick so it shocked me that he went undrafted.

Nate Herbig is a big, strong, physical lineman. He was a standout right guard at Stanford. Herbig could be a very good run blocker, but he'll have to show he can pass protect at the next level.

Sua Opeta played left tackle at Weber State, but he will move to guard in the NFL. He might be a small-school player, but he's got plenty of talent and he will push for a roster or practice squad spot.

Don't dismiss these guys just because they weren't drafted. The Eagles didn't draft Jamaal Jackson, but he started 72 games for the team in his career. Jason Peters was undrafted back in 2004 and signed by the Buffalo Bills. I'd say his career turned out all right.

The skill players get most of the attention, but the guys up front make everything possible. The Eagles have built up a deep, talented line that should play a key part in the team scoring plenty of points and winning lots of games.

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