Steve Vallos has steadily risen up the offensive line depth chart since the beginning of Training Camp. The fifth-year veteran started at the third-team center, almost an afterthought. But Vallos used that time to help lead a young group of inexperienced offensive linemen to run the complicated Eagles offense. As injuries piled up, Vallos got reps with the second team as a guard. In the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he and quarterback Trent Edwards helped engineer a smooth game-winning two-minute drive.
In the second preseason game, Vallos took over as the second-team center, with Dallas Reynolds, the previous occupant of that position, sliding over to right guard. Julian Vandervelde, the other backup center candidate, held down left guard. Those three players are all competing to be the team's primary interior backup. In the end, the Eagles could end up keeping anywhere between one, two, or all three players.
"We're just trying to find the best mix of guys to work into those inside three," head coach Andy Reid said. "All three of those guys we're talking about here can also play guard and center. I know Dallas can do it, he had enough snaps."
Friday night against the Cleveland Browns, Vallos returned to the second-team center position. It was a homecoming game for Vallos, who grew up an hour and a half away and spent the last two seasons as a Brown himself. In fact, after the game, Vallos, somewhat confused by the media attention, made sure to expedite the interview process so that he could spend time with his mother before the team bus left for the airport.
"It was weird," Vallos said. "I was here the last two years so I know a lot of people, got to see a lot of people. It was a good experience. I'm glad we did well, we won; that's always good. I think a lot of people had really good games."
Vallos is comfortable in the playbook, he says, because he played in west coast offenses with the Browns and Seattle Seahawks. The more difficult transition has been to offensive line coach Howard Mudd's techniques, but that adjustment is much easier on a center than it is on guards and tackles, Vallos said.
"The tackles, for guys like Demetress (Bell) coming in here and the young guys, it's like night and day going forward instead of backwards," he said. "It's harder for them. We're more making calls and hanging out in the middle.
"It's different at center, but playing guard it's just attacking is very different, it's very foreign when you're new in here. It makes a lot of sense. Once you become good at it and practice it, it's a lot easier."
One thing working in Vallos' favor is his comfort level with Nick Foles and Trent Edwards. Because he spent so much time in Training Camp with the three's, Vallos has developed a strong rapport with those two quarterbacks.
"Absolutely, we spend a lot of time together off the field too," Vallos said. "They're great guys. Because of injury they've gotten a lot of work and they've done great. I think we have a good bond, all three of us I think we've done really well."
"He's a real smart kid," Reid said of Vallos. "He's very intelligent. He handles it well. Hard worker, tough kid, real tough kid."
With roster cuts on the horizon, Vallos is hoping he's made a strong enough case for inclusion on the active roster.
"It took a few weeks, a month," Vallos said. "I felt like I was doing well, but it takes awhile to get over the hump and get into the game and just prove yourself. So I feel like i've done that and hopefully I can continue to do well."
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