Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Birds heavily invested in offensive line

WHILE MUCH HAS been made of the money that the Eagles are spending on the quarterback position this year, the fact of the matter is that the $22.35 million in 2016 salary-cap space that will be occupied by Sam Bradford ($12.5M), Chase Daniel ($5M) and Carson Wentz ($4.8M) is just the 11th-highest cap total for the position in the league.

Jason Peters talks to his coaches during practice.
Jason Peters talks to his coaches during practice.Read more(David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

WHILE MUCH HAS been made of the money that the Eagles are spending on the quarterback position this year, the fact of the matter is that the $22.35 million in 2016 salary-cap space that will be occupied by Sam Bradford ($12.5M), Chase Daniel ($5M) and Carson Wentz ($4.8M) is just the 11th-highest cap total for the position in the league.

Given Bradford's solid play the second half of last season and Daniel's photographic knowledge of Doug Pederson's offense and Wentz's sky's-the-limit potential, you can make a decent argument that $22.35 million is a bargain.

A much more uncertain value question at the moment is the salary-cap dollars the Eagles have committed to their offensive line in 2016.

Currently, the Eagles have $32.55 million, or 21.3 percent of their total cap space, committed to their offensive line this season. That's the third-highest cap total in the league, behind only Minnesota ($39.6M) and Oakland ($37.5M), according to salary bookkeeper

Their five projected season-opening starters - tackles Jason Peters ($9.73M) and Lane Johnson ($8.13M), center Jason Kelce ($5.2M) and guards Brandon Brooks ($3.2M) and Allen Barbre ($1.95M) - have a cumulative cap cost of $28.21 million.

The closest to that in the NFC East is Washington at $21 million. Dallas is third at $17.5 million and the Giants fourth at a puny $11.2 million.

None of the four teams that reached the AFC and NFC championship games last season has a 2016 cap number higher than $21.5 million (Arizona) for its five projected offensive-line starters.

There are a lot of reasons the Eagles won just seven games last season. A good many of them have to do with a defense that gave up 28 or more points in eight of their last 10 games. But the offensive line didn't play very well, either.

Some of that had to do with the quality of talent at guard. Some of that had to do with injuries, particularly to Peters, who missed nearly 400 snaps with back and quad injuries.

And some of that had to do with the league's defenses catching up with Chip Kelly's tempo offense.

Despite signing 2014 NFL rushing champ DeMarco Murray last year, the Eagles averaged just 3.94 yards per rushing attempt, their lowest average in a decade.

Will the switch to a more traditional pro-style offense with more traditional blocking responsibilities and varied snap counts translate to better offensive-line play? We shall see.

The Eagles spent a lot of time and money on their offensive line this offseason, adding Brooks and center/guard Stefen Wisniewski in free agency and using two of their top four draft picks on offensive linemen (Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai).

"I feel that we have some young players that we can develop and will be really good players as we go forward and continue to develop them," offensive-line coach Jeff Stoutland - one of five assistants from Kelly's staff retained by Doug Pederson - said in an interview last week.

Brooks, a 350-pound road grader who started 44 games the last three years for the Houston Texans, was the most important addition to the line. His presence inside should make life a lot easier for Kelce, who did not play up to his capabilities last season.

"(Brooks) is not only a big body, but he's athletic and strong,"' Stoutland said. "He firms up the middle of the formation. He brings a lot to the table. He's going to help Kelce. Right now, (Brooks) and Al (Barbre) are real physical with their hands in the passing game. It keeps the pocket nice and firm."

Kelce weighs just 285. But Stoutland insisted that size had nothing to do with his struggles last season.

"His weight is not a concern to me," Stoutland said. "He's an explosive center. The reason why he's able to get some of the things done in this offense is that he's extremely explosive and knows how to fit and surface blocks really well.

"I can show you film where you wouldn't believe the movement he got. He's like a bullet hitting you. But now, he's going to have another big, strong guy next to him. It's going to really help us."

What Stoutland and the Eagles really need is for Peters to return to the dominant player he was before his play started to fall off late in the 2014 season.

Peters, who played hurt much of last season, turned 34 in January. Both Stoutland and Pederson insist the eight-time Pro Bowler still is capable of playing at an elite level.

"I'm not him, but if I was him and I kept hearing stuff about my age and all this (I'd be angry)," Stoutland said. "Watch the stuff I'm watching. No one else can do that. There's still no one else here that can do that. And everybody in the locker room knows that.

"Maybe you (media) guys don't know it, but they know it. They watch it on the film and they're like, 'Holy cow. How does he do that?' "

That's nice, but the truth is Peters' 'Holy cow' plays were few and far between last season. He was on the ground more than he has ever been in his career, which is a place you don't want a tackle to be. And he was giving up sacks to inferior pass rushers he used to toy with.

"He was hurt worse than I think people realized he was injured," Stoutland said. "He was able to try to do what he could do. But you could see it on the film.

"He would talk to me about it. He was a good judge of, 'Look, if I go here now, I'm probably not going to be able to help us. I know my body.' And then there were other days where he would say, 'You know, I'm not 100 percent, but I still could be (effective).' But he's back to normal right now and looks great out there."

Pederson talked in February of the Eagles' need to be "smart" in their approach with Peters so they could "get him to Sunday." Stoutland reiterated that last week.

"There are certain things we'll do in individual periods and team periods that, how many times in his lifetime has he kicked and slid his feet and blocked the guy off the edge?" he said. "He's done that a million times probably. So there's certain times, maybe it's a one-on-one drill or something like that where I'll get him a rep and then say, 'Hey, J, (take a break).'

"Halfway through last year, I said to him, 'Don't get mad at me, but I'm going to take you out of some things because the things that we need you do, we'll do those things.' But after that, (other things,) not that they're not important, but you just want to make sure a guy is really feeling good come Sunday."

The switch to a more traditional offense should benefit Stoutland's entire unit. Kelly received criticism from both inside and outside the organization for the strain his tempo spread offense put on his offensive linemen, particularly as opposing defenses started to find ways to counter it.

Johnson has said that Kelly's wham-bam pace in games and practices wore him down mentally and physically. Other linemen have echoed his sentiments.

Johnson noted that Kelly's offense seldom, if ever, provided chip help from tight ends or running backs for the tackles, leaving them in one-on-one situations all of the time.

Kelly also was criticized for always using the same snap count, which allowed opposing defensive linemen and linebackers to get a good jump.

"You've got to select what you're going to do," Stoutland said. "If you're going to run that type of offense and you're trying to go fast, what are you going to do - have five different snap counts? It defeats the purpose.

"Whatever offense we're in, I'm going to coach physical football and details," Stoutland said. "To me, the only difference right now is the tempo of the operation. You're forced in a fast tempo type of offense to make your calls a lot quicker. Now, you have a second or two to analyze and then go."

@Pdomo Blog: