Who Will Protect The Eagles Future QB?
By: Brennan Sokowoski
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Eagles are in need of some help along the offensive line.
The offensive line allowed the most sacks in the NFL (65), including 50 of those coming to their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz.
Well, at least he WAS the franchise quarterback prior to his benching this season. Even Jalen Hurts’ escapability wasn’t enough to slow down the sack rate that the Eagles were allowed, as he took 13 sacks in just 4 games played.
Not even just the sacks were alarming, as the offensive line allowed the quarterback to be hit on 116 plays in the 2020 season, which converts to their quarterback being hit on 10% of the offensive snaps played this season.
If you take away the 403 rushing attempts that the Eagles had this offseason, the Eagles’ quarterback hit rate jumps to over 15%! So with that being said, let’s look at the top five options for the Eagles to replace their abysmal offensive line!
It’s no secret that Joe Thuney is the top interior offensive line that will hit free agency this offseason. Thuney moves fluidly across the offensive line, has ran a similar zone blocking scheme to what Jeff Stoutland utilizes in Philadelphia’s blocking scheme and is at a position of need, considering Isaac Seumalo’s horrifying 2020 season.
Of his 980 offensive snaps this past season, Thuney only allowed 2 sacks and was flagged for just 3 penalties. Over his ENTIRE five year career, Thuney has only allowed 7.5 sacks and committed just 19 penalties. However, given his terrific career numbers, Thuney’s services will not come cheap.
Spotrac estimates his market value to be $15.3M/annually and cites Eagles’ right guard, Brandon Brooks, as a comparable contract. The one thing that ties Thuney to the Eagles though, is general manager Howie Roseman’s willingness to spend money in the trenches to protect his quarterback.
Landon Dickerson is a perfect fit for the Eagles’ offense. A 6’6”, 325 lbs center, coming from the Alabama Crimson Tide, Dickerson is the perfect heir to the throne that Jason Kelce has held since 2011.
Kelce has teetered at the thought of retirement over the past three offseasons and, with a rebuild on the horizon, it seems to be the perfect time for the 34-year-old All-Pro to finally hang up his cleats for good.
Originally, Dickerson started his career at Florida State, where he was an offensive guard along the right side of the line for the Seminoles offense. Once he transferred to Alabama, Saban utilized Dickerson at center for his power run based offense that allowed Dickerson to hide some of his lack of athleticism.
Whenever Dickerson is asked to be a drive-type, straight line blocker, he is as nasty of a center as the come which is why he’s a fit for Philadelphia. Philadelphia has utilized their offensive guards to pull on plays, rather than favoring their center like some teams.
The one downfall to losing athleticism similar to Kelce is, Stoutland often asked Kelce to swing out wide on running back and tight end screen plays, and that’s something that could haunt Dickerson in his early career.
A sixth offensive lineman/swing guard for most of his career, Wilkinson gets to enter free agency as a restricted free agent for the first time in his young career having come off one of the best years of his career.
Wilkinson has committed just seven career penalties and allowed just two sacks in 503 offensive snaps played in 2020. Originally a Downington, Pennsylvania native, Wilkinson could serve as the Eagles’ sixth offensive lineman if he doesn’t get the opportunity to start, as he has played both left and right tackle in his time with the Broncos.
Finally, Wilkinson would inject a sense of youth into an old offensive line, as he’s just turned 26 years old recently, and the Eagles currently project to have the oldest starting offensive line in pro football next season. It doesn’t hurt that Wilkinson would come much cheaper than Joe Thuney as well.
Everything that Landon Dickerson doesn’t do well, Josh Myers does. Myers, a product of the Ohio State Buckeyes, is the best all around center prospect in the upcoming draft.
A steady pass protector for Justin Fields, and lane clearer for J.K. Dobbins and Trey Sermon, Myers has good size with the excellent length for an interior lineman and was impressive in multiple fronts as a blocker.
Myers has the mobility to sink in his pass sets and turn out defensive lineman on scoop and combo blocks. For a bigger, lengthier center, Myers shows great lateral mobility and was on display VERY often in the screen game for the Buckeyes.
Myers has the mobility, anchor, strength, length, and natural athleticism to anchor the interior offensive line of the Philadelphia Eagles for another decade, instead of worrying about it from year to year.
The best, and most realistic option, for the Philadelphia Eagles is to simply get healthy. Before the offseason program even began, The Eagles lost all-pro right guard, Brandon Brooks, to a serious achilles injury, the second of his career, that cost him the entire 2020 season.
Additionally, on the first snap of training camp, first round left tackle Andre Dillard tore his bicep and was lost for the entire season. Mix that in with injuries to Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll and Lane Johnson that cost them games throughout the season, and it ended with the Eagles starting 14 different offensive line combinations throughout the duration of 2020.
No continuity, plus injuries to your all-pro players, is a recipe for disaster for any offensive line, let alone one that has been intact for the better part of the last five seasons.
So here’s the recipe for the Eagles to get back to some stability along the offensive line. You’ll notice that I didn’t include a left tackle on this list, and that’s because I believe the Eagles found a diamond in rough in Jordan Mailata.
He should be the franchise cornerstone that the Eagles build the line through in the future with the impending departures of their current all-pro players. An aging offensive line needs to get younger and with that, some instability is going to happen. It’s time to look forward though, and forget about 2017.