Gonzo: Like it or not, 'This is Chip's team'
Andy Reid drafted 24 of them in 14 years. Chip Kelly drafted one in the first round last year. In all, the Eagles had drafted at least one offensive lineman in 20 of the last 24 years.
This year? Nothing.
It wasn’t because they didn’t want to. It was because they didn’t get to.
“I thought we'd have some opportunities to get some O‑linemen, but there was a run in the third round that was like nothing I've ever seen in my life,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said.
“It was like player after player after player, and all of a sudden we looked back up and our board was depleted, and we weren't going to reach.
“That hurt because we went in thinking that we'd get some guys. I think the [quality] offensive linemen went earlier. I did not think it was a great group overall.
“You heard all this talk about this being the best draft in the last 15, 20 years, but … the rest of the draft we thought there were some holes at some positions.”
That run Roseman spoke of occurred in the third round, with 11 offensive linemen getting picked in the span of one round.
There just wasn’t the kind of value Roseman and Kelly were looking for.
“I think when you look at that group overall and just the depletion of the talent level, certainly by the time we got on the clock in the third round, we felt like it was hard to find a guy to go up and draft at that level,” Roseman said.
“That was one of the surprises. I've said this to my wife, ‘You go in with a plan, and it never goes according to plan. Ever.’”
The Eagles believe they have a very good offensive line, but Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis are the three oldest starters on the roster, Peters and Mathis at 32 and Herremans at 31 (actually one week younger than Trent Cole).
And there are no real heir apparents. Other than Lane Johnson, last year’s first-round pick and now a starting right tackle, and Danny Watkins, a first-round disaster who’s no longer with the team, the Eagles haven’t used a draft pick in the first three rounds on an offensive lineman since Winston Justice in 2006.
So the primary backups remain 2012 fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly, a starter in much of his rookie year; second-year undrafted free agent Matt Tobin; 2011 fifth-round pick Julian Vandervelde, who the Eagles have already released once; and veteran Allen Barbre, who played well against the Packers in place of an injured Peters a year ago.
Kelly said he’s OK with that crew, and the Eagles do seem particularly high on Tobin, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle out of Iowa.
“Matt Tobin really came along last year, was an undrafted free agent that really showed up for us,” Really said excited about his future. "Allen Barbre is a guy that when you watch the games when he went … really did an outstanding job at left tackle, which is probably the most difficult position to play.
“We really like [how] Julian Vandervelde developed at center. He's done a really, really good job for us. We've added David Molk, who's played in this league at center and he's doing a really good job also and competing there. Dennis Kelly is healthy now and he's competing there. It's year two with [undrafted] Mike Bamiro, who we signed last year who was kind of a -- I don't like the word project but a young guy that's a big -- I mean, big, big, big son of a gun that all of a sudden now he's got a year under the system and he's really made a lot of progress himself.
“It was just one of those deals. There were some guys we liked, and there was a run on them, and all of a sudden we liked this guy and then he's gone, he's gone, he's gone.”
The Eagles do have backups they like, but none of them are high draft picks or big-time prospects, and Roseman did seem to concede that the Eagles could be leaving themselves short on the O-line.
“I think that you can never have enough offensive linemen, and we'll always be on the lookout for those guys,” Roseman said. “It's always going to be a priority for us. But we have this commitment -- we're not going to reach.
“We need some of those young guys to step up, and they showed some promise, but when you go from year one to year two, I think that sometimes we've seen this league with offensive linemen that you think they have a lot of promise in year one, and then they come back year two and they need to take the next jump. Especially what happened here, we need those guys to take a jump.”