With the offseason in full swing for the Philadelphia Eagles, we are previewing what lies ahead at each position group in the coming months. In this Offseason Preview, we take a look at both the guard and center position.
End Of Season Depth Chart: Going into the 2012 season, the interior of the Eagles' offensive line looked to be in better shape than it had in years. Center Jason Kelce was coming into his own, left guard Evan Mathis had emerged as one of the best at his position in the NFL and first-round pick Danny Watkins was growing into the right guard spot. Unfortunately, things didn't stay that way for long. Injuries and growing pains impacted the entire offensive line, leading to some real questions moving forward.
Chief among them will be solving the riddle at right guard. Watkins was selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft to fill that role, but was inconsistent before suffering an ankle injury midway through the season. That opened the door for veteran Jake Scott, who signed with the Eagles before their Week 10 game against the Redskins. Scott would start that game, as well as the final six of the 2012 season.
Injuries also played a significant role this year. Kelce suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 and was replaced by Dallas Reynolds. The former practice squad player filled in admirably, but wasn't able to replicate Kelce's success. Watkins suffered an ankle injury during the season and was briefly replaced by sixth-round pick Dennis Kelly. The hulking rookie eventually moved outside to right tackle following an injury to starter Todd Herremans.
The situation along the interior of the line is worth following closely. Kelce appears to be a star in the making at center, but will the new coaching staff ask him to beef up to play in a new scheme? Kelce said at the end of the season that he's happy to do whatever is asked of him. And while the left guard spot looks to be settled, who slides in at right guard? Going into the 2013 season, the Eagles could very well have a three-way competition. Watkins will be fighting for the spot, but could face competition from Scott and even Herremans, who may move inside after an up-and-down year at right tackle.
Player To Watch In Offseason: The Eagles expected Watkins to come to the Eagles as a "plug and play" lineman – someone with the talent to immediately start at right guard and be effective. And while he's shown flashes, Watkins' consistency hasn't been there. A new coaching staff should do wonders for Watkins, who will need to show his value this offseason. With a strong summer, the Baylor product could regain his starting role and even perform at the high level many were anticipating.
Free Agents To Be: Scott signed a one-year deal with the Eagles during the season, and is now an unrestricted free agent. Scott is a serviceable starter, but it remains to be seen whether the new coaching staff will be interested in bringing him back. If so, he will likely enter the offseason in competition for a starting role.
Best Performance: In a primetime bout against the Cowboys in Week 13, the Eagles' offensive line had its best all-around game of the season. Quarterback Nick Foles was sacked only once, and running back Bryce Brown ran for an incredible 169 yards and two touchdowns. Not surprisingly, the Eagles scored a season-high 33 points in that contest.
Noteworthy Stat: According to Pro Football Focus, Mathis gave up only one sack in 2012. In fact, PFF's findings show that Mathis has only given up that one sack since the site began tracking statistics in 2008. That's why it should come as no surprise that Mathis received five votes for the Associated Press All-Pro Team.
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