For all of this decade, the combination of left tackle Tra Thomas' athletic feet and technical precision and Jon Runyan's brute nastiness, toughness and tactical prowess allowed the Eagles to run the offense they wanted to run: Move the ball around, drop back and throw the football, run when the situation was right. In the last couple of years, that dynamic changed, and when the Eagles convene at Lehigh University in five weeks, everything about the tackle positions is going to be different.
You will notice the difference immediately. At left tackle, the Eagles have a beast in Jason Peters. He is listed at 349 pounds, and I wonder if he has played at that weight. The guy just looks gigantic. He has so much bulk and power and even watching him in the spring camps he showed incredible feet. He has to get up to speed with what Juan Castillo wants -- as we have discussed -- but you see it in Peters. You see the "special." You see the ability.
There is a bit of the unknown here after so many seasons of knowing what to expect from Thomas, and that is going to take some getting used to. But the possibilities seem endless. The Eagles are going to run left and make Peters a focal point of the offense. They are going to have his Gene Kelly feet there in pass protection and his Rambo drive blocking punishing defensive linemen in the running game.
At right tackle, the Eagles are banking on Shawn Andrews. The mega-talented young man is in a good place mentally and physically right now. He loves the challenge of playing on the edge, and Andrews has responded to the responsibility. It is quite remarkable that Andy Reid chose to push Andrews' buttons after last year's disappointing performance by sliding Andrews to right tackle. When the season was over, many wondered if Andrews would be a significant piece of the puzzle. Could the Eagles count on him at all?
Turns out, Reid had more than status quo in mind with Andrews, and the two-time Pro Bowl guard could become as significant as any player on this roster. If Andrews blossoms as the Eagles hope at right tackle, the team has a chance to have the most dominating tackle tandem in the league. Peters is going to play well. He's just too good, and Castillo is too good a coach, for that situation to turn out otherwise. Andrews has all the skills -- there may be no better pair of feet in the league -- and he is mentally motivated to be the very best tackle in the game.
Of course, this is part speculation, because neither Peters nor Andrews has been in a full-scale battle against a blitz this year. That's going to come, and if the pair respond as the blueprint suggests, the Eagles are going to have a revolution of sorts on offense. They aren't going to have to keep a back in chip block a pass rusher. Tight end Brent Celek could suddenly be a very large piece of the passing game. Fullback Leonard Weaver is going to be a factor in the passing game. Brian Westbrook won't have to stay in and protect Donovan McNabb when a blitz is coming.
It's all very exciting, because while the main attraction at every practice in training camp is the guys who have the football, the just-as-important key will be the development of Peters and Andrews. Because if they make it happen, if they play like the Eagles think they can play, wow, the dynamic of this offense will change immensely. Want a power running game? The Eagles can do that? Screen passing game? Yup. Play-action passing? Sure thing.
The Eagles offense can match up with any defense if they win the battle on the edges. Peters and Andrews are the guys to carry the Eagles into the next decade. The Changing Of The Tackles is complete for the Eagles, and the early reviews are overwhelming. The big test comes at training camp, so keep an eye out for the big fellas up front.