Heading into the 2011 season, the Eagles have a competition at the center position, as rookie Jason Kelce is battling veteran Jamaal Jackson for the starting spot. First-round draft pick Danny Watkins hopes to learn the playbook in time to start at right guard. And a number of players have seen first-team reps at right tackle, including Ryan Harris, King Dunlap, Austin Howard and Fenuki Tupou. That doesn't include last year's starter, Winston Justice, who is on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Yet, the left side of the offensive line remains intact.
Left tackle Jason Peters was acquired by the Eagles in a trade before the 2009 season. He has earned four consecutive Pro Bowl selections, as well as the reputation as one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL. Next to Peters, Todd Herremans enters his sixth straight season as the starting left guard. The combination of Peters and Herremans helped running back LeSean McCoy turn in a breakout year in 2010, as he averaged 7.7 yards when rushing over left tackle, and 6.6 yards when rushing over left guard, per Pro Football Focus.
Although the Eagles have used a number of different players on the right side of the offensive line, Peters says that the important part is having Herremans next to him on the line.
"It's kind of complicated when you're working with so many different moving parts as a line," Peters said. "You want the five guys that you know. It's not too different for me because I have Todd, my right-hand man."
Herremans has become accustomed to seeing so many different players play the line.
"We always usually got a flux of guys rotating through so you got to be ready in case of injury or something like that happening throughout the year," Herremans said.
In fact, close to a dozen different players have taken snaps with the first-team offense at center, right guard, or right tackle. Herremans was originally drafted as a tackle, but switched to guard in 2006 and has manned the position ever since. The Eagles have not approached Herremans about moving to right tackle, preferring to keep the left side of the line together.
This season, both Peters and Herremans have had to adjust to seeing their former position coach (Juan Castillo) switch to the defensive side of the ball. But the guy who replaced him, Howard Mudd, is one of the greatest position coaches in league history.
"As far as a coaching standpoint, it's different," Peters said. "The (footwork) set is different, with all of the young guys just being influenced, him just teaching them, and really teaching us."
Although the Eagles still need to solidify their offensive line for the 2011 season, one thing is certain: For the first time as an Eagle, Michael Vick is the starting quarterback in week one.
"It's going to be smoother," Peters said. "You've seen him in the first preseason game, how smooth he was. He's more confident. He knows all his reads. It's a whole lot smoother out there."
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