Coming out of a bye
week where Andy Reid admitted he would consider all options, the only
apparent change in the Eagles' starting lineup was made at left tackle.
Dunlap won the job from Demetress Bell during training camp, then lost
it due to a hamstring injury sustained in Week 2. Now that King has
taken it back in time for Sunday's game against the Falcons, here's why
that's a good thing.
Besides the obvious, of course. Bell was
able to buy himself a few extra weeks after showing signs of
improvement, while Dunlap healed and coaches hoped to build continuity.
The free agent addition gave perhaps his worst performance of the season
against Detroit though, bad enough that it clearly warranted a change.
it turns out, Dunlap may hold another advantage over Bell this weekend:
experience. In particular, experience successfully blocking Atlanta's
defenders, especially John Abraham.
What, you mean to tell me you've forgotten already?
was only two years ago when Jason Peters missed a pair of games to have
a torn meniscus repaired in his knee, and Dunlap was pressed into his
first career start against these same Falcons, John Abraham and all. We
were all a little afraid for Kevin Kolb that day, but as it turned out,
those fears were misplaced.
Dunlap played quite possibly the best
game of his career. Kolb was sacked just once, and with a crisp pocket
for much of the day, was able to complete 23 of 29 passes for 326 yards
and three touchdowns. The Eagles' running game wasn't much to behold,
but you wouldn't have guessed it after the 31-17 victory.
praised Dunlap afterwards, telling reporters, "His technique was just
outstanding last week ... there were several times, where he was
one-on-one with 55 [Falcons' DE John Abraham] now, with no help, and he
did an outstanding job."
Les Bowen would write in the Daily News,
"Dunlap was fine. Test passed, and in a way, devalued, because the
Falcons didn't play at all like a 4-1 squad," the latter portion perhaps
serving as a foreshadowing to this weekend.
Pro Football Focus went so far as to grade Dunlap's effort as a 'perfect game.'
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg did a good job of protecting him
with the scheme, but he still handled Abraham and Kroy Bierrmann
one-on-one multiple times. Abraham won some of the initial contact, but
Dunlap’s anchor allowed him to reset and contain his man. His work in
the run game was also impressive as he dominated linebackers and
consistently sealed Abraham away from plays."
Okay, point made.
King Dunlap has in the past shown flashes of being, I don't know, let's
go with adequate. Still, one good game two years ago does not
necessarily equate to another solid outing in 2012.
For one, it
was a different scheme. Juan Castillo was the offensive line coach back
at the time (heh), and Howard Mudd has his linemen doing something else
entirely. Same goes for the Falcons, who have a new defensive
coordinator in Mike Nolan -- and that guy has been around.
similar note, the Eagles have even more issues. Dallas Reynolds could
soon face competition for his job at center, and Danny Watkins has an
ankle injury that may prevent him from starting. But then again, the
2010 team was without its starting center and on to their second right
guard as well.
As the old saying goes, football games are won up
front, in the trenches. As long as that's the case, it's only natural to
be concerned with whether the Eagles are currently equipped to put
points on the board given the state of their offensive line.
front four isn't exactly a dominant bunch though, so long as Dunlap and
right tackle Todd Herremans can contain Abraham -- the NFL's active
career leader in sacks. Yet if they are able to handle that much, there
is hope yet Philly's embattled offensive line can survive this week,
and even make a positive contribution toward a huge, potentially
season-altering upset victory.