How Good Was the Eagles' Offensive Line in 2011?

How Good Was the Eagles' Offensive Line in 2011?

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.'

"Blocking for Michael Vick isn’t always easy, but the Eagles did a great job of putting him in a position to succeed."

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.

More: PFF also had a guest post from Evan Mathis on Tuesday. Mathis, who has been a busy guy of late, provides some nice insight on how to evaluate offensive line performance.

>> Ranking the 2011 Offensive Lines - Part 2 [PFF]

Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The cheers reverberating from George Mason's locker room came from players experiencing their hottest streak in years. The quiet from Penn State's mirrored the whimper of the Nittany Lions in the second half as their run was snapped.

Marquise Moore scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Otis Livingston added 18 points and the Patriots beat Penn State 85-66 for their sixth straight win and best stretch since 2011-12 on Wednesday.

"It was a great win for our team, really proud of our guys," George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. "We really, really competed with toughness in the second half, especially I think our second-half defense was really good."

Jalen Jenkins added 15 points for the Patriots (7-3) who snapped Penn State's four-game winning streak.

Penn State led 38-37 after a wild first half that featured 12 lead changes. But the Raiders took control starting with Livingston's 3-pointer that made it 42-40 early in the second. They dominated from there, leading for the remaining 18:58 and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-29, outscored them 44-16 in the paint and held a speedy Penn State team to just two fastbreak points.

"We looked young tonight for whatever reason," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We have to figure that out. We have to play much harder."

Payton Banks led Penn State (6-4) with 21 points. Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens chipped in 13 apiece for the Nittany Lions.

The big picture
George Mason: The Patriots are on a roll and keeping pace in a competitive Atlantic 10 conference that had five teams with six wins entering the night. They seem to have flipped a switch following a 93-65 loss to Houston on Nov. 21 and haven't lost since.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions had been winning despite deficiencies in a few areas while making up for them in others over the last four games. They weren't able to make up for their lack of production in the paint, however.

Guards on the glass
Paulsen was wary of the size advantage Penn State's forwards had heading in. The Patriots didn't start anyone over 6-foot-7 while Penn State boasted a trio of forwards at or taller than that. Paulsen was particularly concerned about 6-foot-9 Mike Watkins who was fresh off his best game where he blocked 12 shots against Wright State.

But the George Mason coach had faith in his guards' ability to attack the net and win those rebounds. Moore entered the game as the country's top rebounding guard with 10 per game and posted his sixth double-double of the season.

"We have some pretty good rebounding guards," Paulsen said. "So you can't do it unless you have really active, rebounding guards."

Veteran responsibility
Penn State's gotten big time contributions from a handful of freshmen and started three as usual. But it was one of the veterans who shouldered blame afterward.

Banks was dejected after the game and pointed the finger at himself. Despite leading the team in points, he wasn't able to help on the glass.

"A lot of it just starts with me right here," Banks said. "I had zero rebounds. We can't rely on Lamar (Miller) and Mike for the scoring load and Julian (Moore). Our guards have to rebound and that's what we lacked this game and it definitely showed on the scoreboard."

Up next
George Mason plays at Penn on Saturday and has three of their final five games in 2016 at home.

Penn State plays Pittsburgh in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and has another on the road before closing out 2016 with a pair of games at home, including the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.

Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

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Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

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With one second on the shot clock, George Washington forward Tyler Cavanaugh let a three-point shot fly from the corner right in front of his bench.

Cavanaugh’s shot hit the bottom of the net to give the Colonials a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds left. Moments later, Temple redshirt senior swingman Daniel Dingle’s open look at a game-tying shot hit off the back of the rim, and George Washington handed the Owls a 66-63 loss on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

Temple (6-3) came into the game on a five-game winning streak but looked sluggish from the start. The Owls scored just five points in the game’s first six minutes, 34 seconds.

Temple went into halftime down, 31-25, and trailed George Washington (6-4) by as many as 15 points in the second half. Senior guard Josh Brown hit two threes late in the second half to bring Temple within six. Dingle hit two more to tie the game at 61-61 with 2:44 left. 

Two Cavanaugh free throws followed by a jumper from Temple sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. then tied the game at 63-63 with 39.1 seconds left.

The Owls played the game’s final moments without junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who fouled out with 3:41 left.

Enechionyia cooling off
Enechionyia was held in check for the second game in a row. He scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds but made only one basket in the second half.

The junior went 5 of 17 for 12 points against Penn on Saturday. He scored 20-plus points in five of Temple’s first seven games.

Inside the box score
• Colonials guard Jordan Roland came into the game averaging 4.3 points per game. Roland scored 14 points on Wednesday.

• Brown, who played his first game of the season last Wednesday against St. Joe’s, played a season-high 24 minutes. He played a combined 25 minutes in his first two contests.

• George Washington outrebounded Temple, 37-23. The Colonials had 18 turnovers compared to nine for Temple.

Up next
Temple plays DePaul in the Miami Hoophall Invitational on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.