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The whole gang was intact Tuesday, and that already puts the Eagles’ offensive line ahead of last year.
Jason Peters is back from two Achilles operations. Evan Mathis is back after ankle surgery. Jason Kelce is back after knee surgery. Todd Herremans is back after foot surgery.
“It was really good for us to get back out here together and make progress as an offensive line,” Mathis said after Day 1 of the Eagles’ mandatory spring minicamp.
“You still make progress working with everybody else, but to have your unit out there, it’s good to start getting used to the communication and to the guys who are going to be out there on game days.”
Mathis was the only offensive lineman to start all 16 games last year. Every other spot was in disarray, and the line struggled, the offense struggled, the team struggled as linemen kept dropping throughout the season.
Kelce lasted just one game before getting hurt against the Ravens. Herremans made it through seven games before getting hurt vs. the Saints. Peters never even made it to training camp.
In all, the Eagles used two left tackles, two centers, three right guards and three right tackles. By the time the season mercifully ended, Mathis was surrounded by King Dunlap, Dallas Reynolds, Jake Scott and Dennis Kelly.
Now, everybody is back together and while they’re not all 100 percent, they’re all close and moving in the right direction.
“It was cool seeing everybody back out there,” Kelce said. “First time I had been on the field in a long time, and the first time Evan and I had been on the field and the new kid, (rookie first-round pick) Lane Johnson. It was cool to have us all out there.”
Peters, Kelce and Herremans missed a combined 38 games last year. They had missed a combined 16 games previously in 13 seasons as NFL starters.
“It was great having the starting five out there, talking to each other, getting the communication down and really just jelling together,” Peters said.
Peters might be under the most scrutiny of the group, since he’s a five-time Pro Bowl pick whose injuries were considered potentially career threatening.
A year later, he says he’s fine.
“It [didn’t] set me back none,” he said. “I’m out there and I’m going to play like I’ve been playing. If not, I’m going to hang the helmet up.
“Come check me out on Sundays, preseason games, and you’ll see if I’m back. You’ll be the judge. I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can. I’m not going to win all the battles, but I’m going to win most of them.”
Kelce’s injury was almost as serious. Nine months later, he’s just getting back to practice on a full-time basis.
“I feel great,” he said. “Obviously it’s not quite back to new yet, but I felt really good and I’m excited to get through this week and then into training camp and get the pads on and see how it feels then.
“It’s a very good feeling when you haven’t played football against a defensive player in eight months ... to know that your knee is still feeling great. It feels awesome. It’s a very frustrating feeling to finish that season the way it went and also just to be rehabbing in the training room for eight months.”
Kelce said it got to be comical last year as a new offensive lineman joined him in the trainer’s room seemingly every week.
“I’ve had kind of a buddy ... to kind of go through the rehab process with me pretty much the entire time,” he said. “Which I guess you can look at it positively for me or negatively for the team.”
The O-line will be a huge story this year, as the Eagles attempt to run a no-huddle, up-tempo offense with three linemen -– Peters, Herremans and Mathis -- in their 30s and coming off injuries.
“Everybody on this offensive line when they’re healthy is really, really good, and Lane’s come a long way and he’s keeping up with everybody,” Mathis said.
“We have a lot of potential, but it’s no good to talk about that. We’re focused on one day at a time, trying to get better, trying to execute this offense and new techniques to the best of our ability.”
Mathis was a surprise participant on Tuesday, but he said he had just had enough working hard in rehab and was ready to take it onto the field before the offseason sessions end on Thursday.
“Doing the rehab, I could tell exactly where I was,” he said. “I could see my lack of stability when I was first coming back. There was a little bit of atrophy in my leg because I wasn’t using it very much, and then just each day I felt the progress.
“I’d go real hard in rehab for a day, take a day off and come back, and all the drills I was doing I felt better at and that kept happening, and then I got to the point where I was just pushing everything full-speed and I said there’s no point in me waiting anymore. I want to practice.
“The best feeling was mentally being able to get out there again. It’s just really annoying being over there rehabbing when everyboy else is practicing.
“We had everybody today. It was good having the whole gang out there.”