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]

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone, but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period, as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

VOORHEES, N.J. — Michael Del Zotto knows the score.

With the NHL trade deadline just a week away, this can be a very uncomfortable time of year for an unrestricted free-agent-to-be.

Players who are expecting a pay day on a club where there are at least two or three younger and far less expensive rookies anticipating a promotion, know what that implies.

They’re on trade watch.

“It happens every year,” Del Zotto said. “It’s not like it’s the first time. I’ve been traded before. It is what it is. It’s a business.

“You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I’m at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer.

“Same thing with taking each game one day at a time. You take each day one day at a time. Go home, make dinner, get ready for tomorrow and whatever happens, happens.”

The 26-year-old Del Zotto was traded in 2013-14 from the New York Rangers to Nashville. That trade occurred in January, well before the deadline, during a season after which he was about to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time.

That same summer, Del Zotto signed a one-year deal with the Flyers for $1.3 million. His current deal pays him $3.875 million. He’d have to take a pay cut to stay here given the long line of prospects ready to step in at a first-year NHL salary and that fact he has struggled defensively this season.

Del Zotto averages 19:23 ice time. He has 10 points in 32 games and is second among Flyers defensemen with 113 hits. He’s missed a total of 22 games this season with two different injuries, one to his left knee, the other to his left leg.

If you had a chart ranking of Flyers likely to be dealt at next Wednesday’s deadline, Del Zotto would be No. 1, with Mark Streit and one of the Flyers’ two goalies right behind him.

If possible, general manager Ron Hextall would like to add draft picks at the deadline.

“It’s a business and these things are out of your control,” Del Zotto said.

When he was traded to Nashville a few years ago, Del Zotto said he saw it coming.

“Anytime it does happen, and for the first time, it hits you hard,” he said. “Being in New York, I had my brother and wife living with me, it made it extra tough. With our schedule being tough, you don’t get to see them very often, but with them living with me, it was pretty special.

“That’s what hurt the most. Leaving my family. I decided, it’s a business and you never know when it can or can’t happen ...”

The line behind him in Philadelphia includes Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, etc.  

Del Zotto laughed and admitted he’s aware of those waiting.

“That’s the part of the game that is out of my control,” he said. “That is why you have the GM and coaching staff. To make those decisions. My job is to come into work every day, give everything you have.

“That’s one thing. I can always look myself in the mirror. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give everything I have every day. At the end of the day, if I can look myself in the mirror, I’m happy. That’s all I can control.”

The Flyers host Washington on Wednesday before going to Pittsburgh for their Stadium Series outdoor game this weekend.

"[Those] are huge four-point games for us," he said. "We can't overlook that. We know where we are in the standings."