When people describe the offensive line situation as "scary," and honestly believe the quarterback is "gonna get killed," that's never a good sign. That was the lasting impression for many folks after Thursday night's preseason game, even if the blood was mostly on the hands of a pair of rookies.
Not surprisingly, the unit's performance has prompted a change, but not necessarily where you might think. Todd Herremans, who has started full time at left guard since 2006, will kick out to right tackle, where the Eagles have been searching for answers all summer. Evan Mathis, yet another of the team's less heralded free agent additions, will plug into Herremans' old spot.
Meanwhile, Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins will retain their positions as the club's center and right guard respectively.
Several scribes felt the Eagles' best possible line at this juncture would have Herremans outside, where King Dunlap started the past two weeks, and Mathis take over at left guard. Dunlap didn't appear to be a liability in either game, but the coaches are obviously more comfortable with the more experienced Herremans protecting Mike Vick's blindside.
Ryan Harris, who started week one, has been struggling with back issues, and denied a rumor he was headed for surgery. Winston Justice, who started the previous two seasons, remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Part of me doesn't like the decision, if only because it will break up a proven left side that looked dominant at times last season. It took Jason Peters and Herremans a year to develop that rapport, but they eventually formed the one area of the line that wasn't a question mark.
Having the veteran Mathis makes the move a little easier to swallow. A third round pick out of Alabama in 2005, Mathis has played for three teams, making 22 starts. He spent the last three seasons in Cincinnati, where although he was not a starter, some observers felt he measured better than the competition.
It's possible this is all makeshift until Justice is able to return, but if he begins the season on the PUP, that wouldn't be until Week 8 at the earliest. The Eagles' bye falls in Week 7.
As for the rest of the group, sticking with Kelce at center will be up for heavy scrutiny. We think he settled down nicely as Thursday's contest went on, and he looked like an absolute beast in the running game. However, they can't afford the kinds of lapses in protection that turned Vick into a tackling a dummy during the first quarter.
Kelce and Watkins did not appear to be on the same page at all. The front office is counting on Watkins, their first round pick, to step up his game and be ready for the regular season. There wouldn't appear to be a serious rush for Kelce though, with Jamaal Jackson healthy and still on the roster--for now.
The Eagles begin the season on the road, in loud domes at St. Louis and Atlanta. The Falcons have been almost unbeatable in their own building in recent years.
If Kelce can hold the line together, and build on his second quarter against the Browns, they should be fine, but that is admittedly a big if. If the team moves on from Jackson, McGlynn could still be an option there.
Otherwise, moving Herremans outside seems like it should do nothing but solidify a unit that has the potential to be vastly improved over last season. Of course, so far that's all it is--potential. The young players need to prove they can handle the NFL, while Herremans and Mathis will have to show us the tinkering was worthwhile.
>> Herremans to RT; Mathis to LG [Birds' Eye View]
>> Solution At Left Guard: Bring Back Mathis And Start Him [Cincy Jungle]