PFF: Eagles' O-line the best, and it's not close

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PFF: Eagles' O-line the best, and it's not close

The Eagles' offensive line did a poor job protecting Nick Foles in the 24-22 win in Dallas, allowing five sacks and five more QB pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, but the unit again did a terrific job blocking in the run game.

The Eagles averaged 4.03 yards per carry and finished a clutch, 11-play drive late in the fourth quarter by opening running lanes for Bryce Brown, who rushed for a six-yard first down then a five-yard touchdown. Nine of the 11 plays were runs.

It's nothing new for the best run blocking unit in the NFL. Pro Football Focus, which assigns a grade for each player and team on every play of every game, had the Eagles as by far the best O-line to run behind.

The Eagles graded out at plus-100.1 in run blocking, with the next-best team, San Francisco, checking in at plus-39.5.

Inside, outside, doesn't matter.

Guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans graded out as the two best interior run blockers in the NFL. Jason Kelce was third among centers.

Among tackles, Jason Peters was fourth in the run game and Lane Johnson was 12th. You might laugh at this, but former Eagle King Dunlap was actually the top-ranked run blocking tackle in the NFL. Dunlap enjoyed a career year in Mike McCoy's system out in San Diego.

For good measure, Brent Celek was the top-ranked tight end in run blocking. You rarely see such excellence across the board.

The Eagles didn't do as solid a job in pass protection. Herremans allowed 35 QB hurries according to PFF, second-most in the NFL. Johnson allowed 40, which was seventh-most among tackles.

Pro Bowl snubs Kelce and Mathis were still among the best in the game in pass blocking, however.

The Eagles this season had their most rushing yards since 1949. It was a combination of having an elite offensive line, arguably the game's best running back and a Chip Kelly offense predicated on athleticism and space.

On Monday, former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook said on Philly Sports Talk that Kelly's second year will truly tell us how efficient his offense can be (see story).

"Does this offense work after everyone in the NFL, all the defensive personnel, all the head coaches in the NFL, has had a year in the offseason to study it?" Westbrook asked.

“And now can you make the same thing work again? That’s going to be the true test.”

As long as the Eagles continue to execute at the line of scrimmage and as long as Shady is forcing more missed tackles than any back not named Adrian Peterson or Marshawn Lynch, this run-based offense will continue to thrive.

There are three parts to the Eagles' success on the ground and the O-line has been the most underrated one.

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

The Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago with a 7-9 record. 

In a couple weeks, Eric Rowe might be playing in the Super Bowl. 

Rowe, of course was the Eagles second-round pick in 2015 and went on to have a promising rookie season. But in 2016, the change of head coaches brought a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, which Rowe apparently didn't fit. So a few days before the season began, he was dealt to the New England, where he has become a big part of their defense. 

In his after-the-season press conference on Jan. 4, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked about the trade and gave a somewhat curious answer. He said the team made the move because the front office had already determined they were not going to give Rowe an extension, even though he wouldn't have been eligible for two more seasons. 

If that sounded weird to Eagles fans, they weren't alone. It sounded weird to Rowe too, when the Wilmington News Journal's Martin Frank caught up with him this week. 

“That’s a long time away," Rowe said. "If that’s the reason, that’s really, really weird. You know, it’s whatever. If he thinks that, then I guess that’s what it was. They’re thinking way down the line.” 

Rowe, 24, ended up starting seven games during this regular season for New England, but played just 43 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps. If Rowe played 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 or if he does it in 2017, the fourth-round pick the Eagles get back in the trade will turn into a third-rounder, so there's still a chance next year. 

While a third-round pick wouldn't be bad, the Eagles gave up on a young, talented corner just a year after drafting him because he didn't fit what they wanted to do. 

Shortly after the trade, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called Rowe a good cover corner but cited the development of Jalen Mills as a reason why Rowe became expendable. Schwartz said he appreciated Rowe, but the personnel staff "decided to use him as an asset, and as coaches, we just deal with that and keep playing." 

It was pretty clear during training camp that Rowe had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. He was buried behind Mills and others on the depth chart, so maybe the trade was the best thing for him. 

"That was frustrating, just kind of like thinking, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Rowe said to the Wilmington News Journal. "Yeah, I made mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. I'm not making bad mistakes. I'm making plays. Why am I sliding down? That was frustrating times. I would just go home and my girlfriend's there, and I'm telling her all this stuff. I'd tell my parents, and they're like, 'Just keep your head up, just keep working because you never know. Then boom, the trade comes up." 

And now he might get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, while the Eagles desperately need to fix their cornerback position before next season. 

Eagles Stay or Go Part 5: Brandon Graham to Aaron Grymes

Eagles Stay or Go Part 5: Brandon Graham to Aaron Grymes

In the fifth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 5 is Graham to Grymes.

Brandon Graham
Cap hit: $7.5M

Roob: Interesting year for Graham, who got consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback and graded out as one of the most effective pass rushers in the league but managed only 5½ sacks. Hard to believe Graham is now entering his eighth season with the Eagles. He still has never had more than 6½ sacks in a season, but the pressure is there. I love his effort but would still like to see him finish when he gets a hand on the quarterback. He'll be here. The question is whether he can take his game to the next level and turn those hurries into sacks. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s hard to believe this is the same player who was once labeled a bust and completely written off by fans. Graham ended up having the best season of his career in Jim Schwartz’s defense and looked much more at home as a 4-3 defensive end. No, his sack numbers weren’t very high this year, but sacks don’t tell the whole story and that was the case with Graham. He was extremely disruptive and was the Eagles’ best defensive end. No-brainer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dwayne Gratz

Roob: Back in 2013, Gratz was a third-round pick and a pretty good cornerback prospect for the Jaguars. He started 25 games over three years for the Jags before bouncing from the Jags to the Rams and Eagles last year. Considering the Eagles’ situation at corner, the Eagles have to give him a long look this offseason to see if there’s anything there. He didn’t get into a game after joining the Eagles late last year, but without even seeing him play, I’m prepared to call him the Eagles’ best cornerback. (That's kind of a joke, but not really.) The Eagles have so many needs and need so many receivers, corners and running backs that they can’t get them all through the draft and free agency. So I’m going off a hunch and saying Gratz makes the team next year. Just because somebody has to play cornerback and it can’t be the guys who were here last year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Gratz was added late in the year and never played. But he’s a former third-round pick and we’ll have to see what he can offer. He’ll likely be with the team in training camp and will have a shot, but probably not a great one. Honestly, it’s probably too early to call this one. 

Verdict: GOES

Dorial Green-Beckham
Cap hit: $944K

Roob: One of the Eagles’ bigger disappointments this past year, DGB took a big step backwards after a promising rookie year with the Titans. Now, the question is, how much was because he arrived late in the preseason, how much was because the since-departed Greg Lewis was his position coach, how much was his lack of familiarity with Carson Wentz? The Eagles are desperate for playmakers at wide receiver, and you can’t draft or sign an entirely new group. Considering DGB’s salary and cap figure — both are just $944,418 — I figure the Eagles will keep him around one more year just to see if there’s anything there. Maybe with a new coach and another year in this offense, he can help. I kind of doubt he'll ever become more than just a guy, but there's no reason for the Eagles not to keep him around another year to find out. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It didn’t take too long into this season to see why the Titans were fine with giving up DGB for reserve offensive tackle Dennis Kelly. I know many people have said they’ve seen all they need to see of Green-Beckham to know he can’t play. I’m not sold yet. I’m just not ready to give up on a 23-year-old receiver who is 6-5, 237. I know he doesn’t play well with his size, but I want to see him have a full offseason here and I want to see him work with a new receivers coach. 

Verdict: STAYS

Darrell Greene

Roob: Greene spent the year on the Eagles’ practice squad after a solid career at San Diego State. He’s got some size at 6-3, 320, and the Eagles are definitely uncertain at guard. But is Greene the direction they’re going to go for offensive line depth moving forward? Probably not. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Greene was on the practice squad, then off the practice squad, then on the practice squad, etc., in the beginning of the season when the Eagles had their practice squad revolving door. But they liked Greene enough to keep him around, although he never made his way to the 53-man roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Cap hit: $540K

Roob: While longtime special teams stalwarts like Bryan Braman and Najee Goode may be expendable because of their high minimum salaries and diminishing effectiveness, a young kid like Grugier-Hill stays because he comes much cheaper and can still run around on special teams and make plays. For the most part, special teams is a young man's game. Grugier-Hill is also a young linebacker at a position in which the Eagles have very little youth outside of Jordan Hicks. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He’s pretty far down the list of linebackers on the depth chart but proved to be a good special teams player. Maybe he’ll never be any more than that, but for now, that’s good enough. He can make an impact as a teamer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Aaron Grymes

Roob: Honestly, I wouldn’t rule out anybody who plays cornerback. Grymes is a guy who had three good years in Canada and even played for the Grey Cup-champion Edmonton Eskimos in 2015. How much of that translates to the U.S. game, I don’t know, but other than seventh-round pick Jalen Mills, undrafted C.J. Smith and possibly journeyman Gratz (see above), there really aren’t any young corners on the roster, so a guy like Grymes will get every chance to make the team. None of us have seen enough of Grymes to know whether he can help, but I figure he’ll get a long look in training camp, but ultimately not survive final cuts. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Grymes impressed last training camp and probably would have had a good shot at making the initial roster had he not injured his shoulder. The Eagles are going to take a look at him again this spring and summer, but they’re probably going to completely revamp that entire position if they can. 

Verdict: GOES