When the Eagles took the field for practice Tuesday, Matt Pryor was the first-team left tackle, and Jason Peters lined up at right guard.
It will likely be next week’s first practice that will tell us whether coach Doug Pederson is serious about having Pryor protect Carson Wentz’s blind side in the Sept. 13 season opener at Washington. But it is notable that Pryor still had the job Tuesday, after a rough Sunday scrimmage in which backup defensive end Josh Sweat gave him fits in pass protection.
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Asked what he took from those struggles, Pederson said: “I don’t make too much of it. Pryor has been working [at] right guard and right tackle [during camp]. I believe this might have been the first time he’s really had extensive left-tackle work without any preparation or practice time. It’s a great example of why you just don’t move guys around at the spur of the moment.
“Matt Pryor is a guy that, once he gets all the work during the week, is a solid guard or tackle. He’s proven that in the past for us. He’ll settle in over there at the left side, and we’ll be fine.”
Pederson indicated that Jordan Mailata also would get some reps at left tackle this week, as the team tries to figure out how to replace 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard, sidelined for the season by a right-biceps tear suffered last week. The obvious move would be to switch Peters back to the spot where he has made nine Pro Bowls; everyone assumed Peters was Plan B if Dillard didn’t work out, when the Eagles brought Peters back from free agency following Brandon Brooks’ Achilles tear in June.
But as you probably have heard by now, Peters feels he signed on the cheap to play right guard (one year, roughly $3 million) and that he should get a salary boost if he returns to left tackle.
Tuesday was the first chance reporters had to ask Pederson about this. The way Pederson danced, spun, and stiff-armed his way through questions, you would have thought he’d been a punt returner during his playing career, instead of a backup quarterback.
“First of all, I don’t understand where some of these reports are coming from,” Pederson said when asked whether Peters wanted a raise to go back to his old job. “Jason Peters, for us, has done an outstanding job at right guard. He’s comfortable at right guard. We have some options at left tackle that we’re working through over there.”
If Pederson asked Peters to switch to left tackle and he refused, wouldn’t that undermine Pederson’s authority?
“It doesn’t undermine anything,” Pederson said. “The fact [is] that Jason has really embraced a new role for him, he’s done it well. He’s playing at a high level in what we’ve asked him to do there, and he’s comfortable.”
It doesn’t make a lot of sense that Pederson would rather play Pryor – a veteran of 148 snaps, including last season’s playoff start, all at right guard – over a prospective Hall of Fame left tackle. But the one part of his explanation that did ring true was about being reluctant to move two players to fill an offensive line hole – that reluctance has come up in the past. Pederson and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland believe in keeping as much continuity on the O-line as they can.
“As you guys know, it’s hard to disrupt too many positions with that offensive line,” Pederson said. “We’ve got a few more days here before we really get into regular- season week to find out who that left tackle will be. But, got some options over there.”
In addition to Pryor and Mailata, Pederson mentioned that fourth-round rookie Jack Driscoll is having a good camp at right tackle.
Asked if he were confident Peters would play left tackle, Pederson said: “To me, that would be a private conversation, one between me and Jason. I probably wouldn’t reveal that to you guys.”
Pryor said Saturday that he is comfortable playing guard and tackle on either side, and that he played the 2019 preseason on the left side. “I’m comfortable wherever the coaches put me,” he said.
Pryor was asked whether he’d assumed Peters would go back to left tackle for Dillard.
“Nah. Whatever business they got going on, that’s between them,” he said. “Me, whatever opportunity I get, I’m about to take.”
Defensive end Brandon Graham said he liked that Pryor is “a competitor” who has “gotten better since he’s been here.”
Graham was also asked about Mailata and Driscoll.