Everybody knows the Birds' offensive line improved by leaps and bounds last season. What you may not have realized is they made a meteoric rise from the middle of the pack to one of the top units in the league.
Pro Football Focus released Part 2 of their annual O-line rankings on Thursday, where the Eagles finished all the way up at second place. The cumulative rankings are formulated by grading every player individually in run and screen blocking, pass blocking, and penalties, and while Philadelphia finished 22nd in the latter, PFF named Howard Mudd's group the best run blockers in the league.
That the Eagles are among the very best run blocking teams in the NFL should come as no surprise. They finished the season fifth in rushing and third in yards per carry, thanks in part to a breakout effort by LeSean McCoy, and Michael Vick's mobility.
However, a lot of the credit for their success falls on the guys up front. In particular, Jason Peters and Evan Mathis formed a dominant tandem. According to NFL.com's offensive line statistics, the Eagles gashed defenses for gains of 10 yards or more on the left side 35 times, the second-highest total in the in league in 2011 -- on the left, or anyplace else on the field for that matter.
Even though the line was ranked second overall, PFF's pass block score shows the Eagles have a ways to go yet.
The pass blocking ranked just 12th, which is certainly not bad, but needs to improve. They're not super kind to Todd Herremans, openly questioning whether the converted right tackle should be protecting Vick's blind side, and the round-up tagged first-round pick Danny Watkins as their worst player.
Still, it was largely a positive review, and acknowledges the difficulties of blocking for certain people whose names rhyme with 'bicycle kick.'
Obviously, you would hope Watkins as well as Jason Kelce continue to make strides throughout the offseason and into their sophomore year in the league. Herremans could also be better as he takes more snaps at right tackle, where he was moved only days before the regular season began.
Either way, the group fared much better than a year ago, when PFF ranked the unit 17th. They've undergone quite an overhaul since then, with a new coach, and Peters being the only starter who remained in the same position. There's no question they've already benefited greatly from the change, and they should continue moving in the right direction.