BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Demetress Bell doesn't have to go far to find out what it's like to play left tackle for the Eagles, with Howard Mudd as his offensive line coach.
Bell, 28, is sharing a dormitory room at training camp with the man he is replacing and whose very large cleats he must step into.
"I've got Jason Peters in my dorm room and Howard Mudd in the classroom," Bell said. "What else could you want?"
Peters, whose ruptured Achilles tendon led to the Eagles' acquiring Bell in early April, reported to Lehigh University just like the rest of his teammates, even though he is likely out for the season. The five-time Pro Bowl tackle is rehabilitating his injury here, but he also is assisting Bell, a friend and former Buffalo Bills teammate.
"I think it's a good situation being able to learn from that, to be around that guy and ask him what he did to be the best left tackle in football," guard Evan Mathis said. "He's in the same system with the same coach and he can watch film and see exactly how those techniques apply and how Jason achieved his success."
It's early and it's just training camp, but Bell appears to be making the transition from Buffalo's more passive pass-blocking techniques to Mudd's more aggressive methods.
Mudd and the rest of Andy Reid's assistants spoke to reporters early in camp, but are generally off-limits for interviews. However, when Mudd was asked Sunday how Bell was progressing, he smiled and gave a thumbs-up. For Mudd, an irascible character, that's about as positive as it gets.
"I think I'm getting more than expected, more than they had expected I'd get at this point," Bell said. "I still want to be more aggressive, but I'm still working on it. There's still griping in the meeting room, but it's not as much as I expected."
Some of Mudd's linemen said the 70-year-old coach hasn't been as cranky during this camp because last year - his first with the Eagles - he had to teach a new system to new players without benefit of an offseason. As detrimental as Peters' injury was, the timing allowed Bell to have a full spring to learn the Eagles offense and the basics of Mudd's teachings.
"Let me put it this way: Right now, Bell's doing well. Last year, I wasn't even here yet," said Mathis, whom the Eagles signed as an unheralded free agent on July 31.
Mudd rested at his homes in Seattle and Arizona for most of the offseason practice schedule, but he was at the NovaCare Complex with Bell a few weeks after the Eagles signed the free agent to a five-year deal and then for the three-day minicamp in June.
"He's got a big advantage learning the techniques from the OTAs, so that when we say 'we want you to do the following thing' . . . he knows what it is," Mudd said. "He may not be able to execute it yet, but he knows what it is."
Under Mudd's tutelage, Peters was arguably the best left tackle in the game last season. He allowed only three sacks playing 954 snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and he opened up many of the holes for running back LeSean McCoy whenever he ran to the left.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called for many plays that sprang the athletically gifted Peters upfield to block. Bell isn't as nimble, but the Eagles have said he can do many of the things Peters did last season.
But can he do them as well? Mudd said in June that he didn't need Bell to be Peters, whom he had once before replaced in Buffalo. Even so, will the expected downgrade mean that Bell needs assistance from a tight end or running back in pass protection? Peters' effectiveness after the first month of the season allowed tight end Brent Celek to run more routes and catch more passes in the last 12 games.
"It depends on the setup of the defensive linemen and the play call," Bell said. "I don't think I'll get a lot of help from the tight end or the running back. We'll just have to see."
Bell's health also is a concern. A broken collarbone and torn meniscus (cartilage) in his knee limited him to six starts last season. In 2009, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He started all 16 games in 2010.
King Dunlap is here in case Bell falters, though. Peters is here to make sure that doesn't happen.
"He's been in the film room sometimes helping me," Bell said. "And if I have a question when he's not there, I always know where to find him."