Injuries are not an excuse in the NFL, and the Eagles know it. They face a difficult situation right now, having lost standout left tackle Jason Peters to a rupture achilles tendon injury. We all wish him the best of luck with his recovery, with the hope that he returns -- whenever he returns -- he is just as good a player as he was prior to the injury.
In the meantime, the Eagles are exploring their options. They are hosting -- or hosted, depending when you read this -- fifth-year veteran Demetrius Bell on Saturday and have reportedly shown an interest in veteran Marcus McNeil.
There is the draft to consider four weeks from now. There are trade possibilities, although I'm not sure there are any disgruntled Pro Bowl-level left tackles on the market right now.
There is King Dunlap, who has done a nice job in starting situations at both left tackle and right tackle in his seasons here. Perhaps there are other options, such as moving Evan Mathis from left guard to left tackle and inserting someone like Julian Vandervelde or a high draft pick into the left guard spot, but then the Eagles are changing out two spots on the line, rather than one, and that is not generally advisable.
Nobody is going to throw the high hopes of the season away because of this injury. I'm not here to minimize the loss -- Peters is a terrific player, one of the best left tackles in the history of this franchise -- but the Eagles have to overcome it. They just have to.
One of the reasons they will do so is Howard Mudd, the quirky, brilliant, proven offensive line coach. His method aren't exactly conventional, and he isn't on board to make any friends with his players, but Mudd is simply a great coach. He is going to get this right. He is going to work with whomever the front office lines up as candidates for left tackle and he is going to make all of them the best players they can be.
I have no indication at this point, in late afternoon on Saturday, if the Eagles are going to sign Bell or McNeil, or who they might be considering for the position at left tackle. I know they like Dunlap, but they may seem him in a more productive role as a swing tackle on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Had this injury happened in August, in training camp, it would have multiplied in urgency. The options for replacing Peters then would have been far less appealing, not that they are exactly jumping off the page right now.
The faith in Mudd is the key here, above anything and everything else. He has four of five starters back and he has some options with whom he will have an entire offseason, training camp and preseason.
It's going to be alright for the Eagles. They aren't going to have Peters, but they are going to have quality at left tackle. They are going to have to make a player at that position, and in a sense Mudd serves as the architect of the planning and the building and, of course, of the finished product.
If you had a question about Mudd when Andy Reid hired him out of retirement, if you wondered if Mudd would be the real deal, his performance in 2011 was convincing. He took an offensive line that was in transition and completely rebuilt it, moved pieces around, treated rookies as if they were seasoned veterans and put together a fine, better-as-it-went-along offensive line.
The Eagles still have a chance to be great up front, and it will take a group effort. They need their kids -- center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins -- to step forward in their second seasons and play outstanding football. Mathis has to stay at the very high level he played in 2011. Todd Herremans, at right tackle, must continue to work on his footwork, his hands and his overall technique to become a Pro Bowl-level player there.
Right now, for sure, I understand the concern. Losing Peters is a serious blow. Injuries are part of the game and we all know that, but losing a Pro Bowl player in March? That is a significant hurdle that the Eagles have to leap together, led ultimately by a Hall of Fame coach who will make sure he gets the job done right.