Thursday night was a reminder of just how special left tackle Jason Peters is and that we follow in his path of greatness. The 36-year-old Peters, who was injured in Week 7 of the 2017 regular season and who did not play a snap in the preseason, went the distance against Atlanta (save for the final offensive snap, the two-point conversion) and dominated the line of scrimmage.
Age 36. Year 15 in the NFL. First live action since October 2017.
"We're watching a first-ballot Hall of Famer. One of the most talented players at any position to ever play the game," Howie Roseman said on Tuesday from his NovaCare Complex office. "To have him here in Philadelphia for all of these years and to see what he does every time he's on the field, it's just special. It's remarkable and sometimes you just have to step back and appreciate Jason and what he brings to this football team and this city."
Peters played 71 of the 72 offensive snaps and was just about as perfect as an offensive lineman can be working against outstanding edge rushers Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley. Both are young, fast off the edge, and aggressive. Peters, helped only by an occasional chip from a running back on longer pass routes, swatted away the threats as if he had no rust to knock off.
"Pretty amazing that a guy can miss all that time and step right back into one of the premier positions in the National Football League like JP did for us," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "We know he's just going to keep getting better week in and week out now that the games have started and he gets back out there and knocks a little bit of the rust off. For Week 1, he played really well."
Peters isn't one to talk about his exploits and, in fact, he rarely meets the media during the time reporters are given access to the players during the week. Peters prefers to keep a low profile as he goes about his craft. But on the field, his brilliance casts a long shadow.
"Having Jason on the field makes all of us better," center Jason Kelce said. "The guy is one of the best to ever play the game. He's a perfectionist. You know that he's got it all covered when he's playing left tackle."
In his 36 games playing tight end at Arkansas, Peters caught 28 passes and scored four touchdowns. Peters was passed over in the 2004 draft as the league searched for the right fit. Was Peters a tight end worth developing? He did, after all, run a 4.93 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Was he a defensive lineman, which was his position initially at Arkansas? Was there any chance Peters could make it as an NFL offensive lineman?
"He's what they call a 'jumbo athlete.' Very agile. Catches the ball well," then-Baltimore Ravens personnel director Phil Savage told USA Today's Jarrett Bell at the time. "Blocking? He's probably not as good as what people expect to see, as far as playing tackle. Plus, from everything I know, his mentality is more to be a skilled-position player. He'll be intriguing to watch the next couple of years, to see what he develops into."
Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker, now an analyst with Sirius NFL Radio and SportsRadio 94WIP in Philadelphia, was a teammate of Peters in 2004 when Peters was an undrafted rookie with the Buffalo Bills. The NFL had not yet figured out what to do with Peters' incredible athleticism, so he played tight end and he took reps on special teams and he was so freakishly gifted that he made jaws slack at the sight of his 6-4, 315-pound body running up and down the football field.
"He was on the kickoff and punt teams as a rookie as a 315-pound tight end and it was like the scariest thing you've ever seen," Tucker said. "A 315-pound guy who could run and you could tell that nobody wanted a piece of him. We were playing Cincinnati, making a playoff push, and he busted through the punt team, blocked the punt, and scooped it up for a touchdown. I mean, it was incredible. He had been bumped up from the practice squad and was an absolute demon on special teams.
"At the same time, he started practicing just a little bit on the offensive line and the first day they had him do one-on-ones, he was our best pass blocker. The first day he had ever done it in his life. We were all looking at each other going, 'What in the heck is going on?' I had been doing it since sixth grade, and he was better than me in six seconds. It was crazy."
What he's become is, as Roseman said, one of the greatest to ever play the game at left tackle. Roseman was part of the personnel staff in Philadelphia when the Eagles traded a 2009 first-round draft pick, a fourth-rounder that year, and a sixth-round pick in 2010 to Buffalo to acquire Peters. He stepped right in and replaced the great Tra Thomas, whom the Eagles had allowed to reach free agency a month earlier. Thomas signed quickly with Jacksonville and the Eagles traded for Peters, and the line of succession at left tackle continued.
It continues today. The importance of keeping Peters on the field is obvious. Halapoulivaati Vaitai proved a capable replacement last year as the Eagles marched on and won the Super Bowl without Peters, but everyone understands Peters and his value.
"I'm very glad that I was teammates with him and that I had a chance to witness all of that. There's no way that, in 2004, that oh yeah, in 2018 I'll be doing the Eagles' pregame (radio) show and he'll be a 36-year-old future Hall of Fame tackle," Tucker said. "It's remarkable. He's a rare, rare athlete and player. We're all fortunate to still have the chance to watch him because players like him don't come around very often."
Yeah, that's the theme here. We're touched by greatness with Peters, and this is a reminder to appreciate just what it means. A nine-time Pro Bowl player, a future Hall of Fame inductee, Peters goes about his business professionally and with great attention to detail and deep care. He's doing what he loves to do, and that is dominate on the football field. Times are good with Jason Peters at left tackle. Enjoy them, and him.