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Is Eagles’ Andre Dillard taking over left tackle spot, or just keeping it warm? | Early Birds

The first-round rookie starts again this week. Will he soon be ready to take over Jason Peters' spot for good?

Eagles offensive tackle Andre Dillard warms up before the Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.
Eagles offensive tackle Andre Dillard warms up before the Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Andre Dillard will be the Eagles’ left tackle again this week, at Buffalo.

So far, Dillard has been a subplot, as more urgent matters have taken the spotlight in a tumultuous Eagles season. But his development as the replacement for 37-year-old Jason Peters is going to be a huge part of the team’s future.

More on Andre the giant below, but first, if you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here​. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @lesbowen.

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Learning the ropes

Dillard survived his first start in Dallas, a week after surviving his first extended action of the season, after Peters went down with a knee injury against Minnesota. Dillard’s snaps went from 47 to 61. He gave up a sack, but his pressures and hurries dropped, according to Pro Football Focus.

With the Eagles’ offense struggling, the team needs Dillard to take another step forward Sunday at Buffalo. He’ll likely be matched against 10-year veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes, who will be making his 94th career start, as Dillard makes his second.

In Dallas, Dillard said, the first-round rookie learned “just what it feels like to play an entire game, the pace and competition of an entire game.”

Was it overwhelming?

“No,” he said. “It’s kind of how I pictured it would be. It ain’t easy, at all. Some real good players out there.”

Asked if there was one thing he specifically wanted to do better this week, Dillard said there is, but he didn’t want to say what it might be, presumably on the off chance that the Bills are among our newsletter subscribers. “I’m not trying to get information about myself out there too much.”

Dillard got bull-rushed on the sack he allowed. Listed at 6-foot-5, 315, he has quick feet and good balance, but he lacks the bulk and power of Peters, whose listed weight of 328 might be from grade school.

How do teams approach a rookie tackle? Do they try to confuse him with stunts, or do they just try to overpower him?

“I imagine they just try to mess with me in any way they can,” Dillard said. “I’m not going to let any of that get to me.”

There is no indication Peters is anywhere close to playing again. Should Dillard settle comfortably in to the left tackle spot, it would be interesting to see how the team might handle that, when Peters returns.

“I think he did a really good job, commendable job under difficult circumstance playing against two really good rushers, or three really good rushers, guys that he matched up with down there in Dallas, and acquitted himself very nicely,” Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said this week. “I think his confidence ought to grow as a result of his performance.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Paul Domowitch, Jeff McLane, and I take a stab at predicting Sunday’s result in Buffalo.

  2. EJ Smith goes looking for a nickel. The Eagles aren’t saying who will replace Orlando Scandrick as the third cornerback.

  3. As always, Domo has everything you need to know about the matchup. Probably stuff you actually don’t need to know, too. He’s a real chatterbox.

  4. McLane, our Pauline Kael, has reviewed the film from the Dallas loss, and he isn’t blaming Carson Wentz. (Did we just spoil the film for you? Sorry!)

  5. I had a lot of fun reconnecting with Donovan McNabb over what it’s like being the Eagles quarterback during a week like this one, when the sky is falling, and what he would tell Carson Wentz.

  6. Bob Ford takes a look at what’s happening to a dying breed of player in the NFL: the linebacker.

  7. And finally, Domo talked to Jalen Mills about what it’s like to be playing football again after nearly a year off.

From the mailbag

What is the organizational problem that has turned the Eagles into a third-tier NFL club? — @macscotchman via Twitter

Mac, third tier is harsh. Well, only until they lose in Buffalo; then it’s justified.

However you rank them as an organization, these are the Eagles’ worst problems, as I see it:

  1. They have not built a great nucleus around Carson Wentz through the draft. Players who should be top-tier starters right now, such as Nelson Agholor, Derek Barnett, and Sidney Jones, are middling- to-poor NFL players.

  2. Their way to compensate for this, plugging holes with low-cost veterans acquired through trade or free agency, worked spectacularly well during the Super Bowl season but has been a disaster since. The last two years, there have been fewer Tim Jernigans, Patrick Robinsons, or Jay Ajayis. Michael Bennett last year is the closest thing. This year’s offseason acquisitions have been terrible, with the exception of Jordan Howard. Malik Jackson went down for the season in the first game, DeSean Jackson hasn’t played since the first game, L.J. Fort was bizarrely released just as a linebacking crisis deepened, ditto Zach Brown. Orlando Scandrick definitely wasn’t a Robinson-level signing. The same goes for Andrew Sendejo.

  3. Brain drain on the coaching staff, inevitable after winning the Super Bowl. Maybe if you’re Bill Belichick, it doesn’t matter who works for you. If you’re Doug Pederson, it does. There is little doubt at this point that Frank Reich and John DeFilippo were a stronger offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach duo than Mike Groh and Press Taylor. And little doubt that Groh was a better wide receivers coach than Carson Walch.