BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Todd Herremans has been doing the same thing the same way for six years, since the Philadelphia Eagles took him in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. It's been a long time since the Eagles' starting left guard has had to think about a different way of blocking a defensive player. But change has come to the Eagles, with longtime offensive line coach Juan Castillo switching over to the defensive side of the ball and new offensive line coach Howard Mudd coming in with new ideas. And Herremans ... well, he's coping.
"There's quite a few things that are different," Herremans told me when I visited Eagles training camp earlier this month. "It's a whole new thought of blocking your man. Instead of meeting him at a spot, you're going to get to him before they get to that spot that they want to get to. So it's more of an aggressive approach. And even though he's coaching more aggressively, he's way more laid back."
Yes, we know all about Castillo and how fired-up a guy he is. Herremans said the offensive linemen are getting a kick out of watching him run around high-fiving all the defensive players in practice.
"It's taking a toll on him, though," Herremans joked. "He's got a lot farther to run this year. I think his hamstrings are being exploited."
Mudd does a fair amount of his coaching from a golf cart due to issues he has with his legs. But he's installing a whole new way of playing offensive line, and holdovers like Herremans, left tackle Jason Peters and center Jamaal Jackson have to get used to it.
"The toughest part is just when something doesn't work, trying not to revert to my old ways because it's something that's worked for me for six years," Herremans said. "But also, there are things that haven't been working for me for six years that he's got a new take on. Like, I've always struggled getting my head outside on the front side of a run play with the way that Juan wanted us to do it, and I feel like that's a lot easier for me to do now the way that Howard has us doing it."
So that's good. But as with everything you learn that's new, it can be difficult to trust it when you're used to having had success doing it a different way. For example:
"He's got us setting really aggressively in the pass game," Herremans said. "So if I get edged real quick, then automatically, in my mind, I want to go ahead and do what I did last year on the next play. But I just have to fight that urge. I've just got to trust him."
I was talking to Herremans after about the eighth or ninth day of training camp practice, so it was still a work in progress. And I'm sure he's grown more comfortable in the week-plus since I spoke with him that he was in the new system that day. I just found it interesting, an inside look at what's different about the way the Eagles will play offensive line this year, and I thought I'd share it with you. I wouldn't worry about Herremans, though. Yeah, he's a giant at 6-foot-6, 321 pounds, but he's too good a player not to fit into the new scheme, even though Mudd is known for preferring "athletic" linemen to huge ones.
"He likes to keep active feet. He wants your feet to be active all the time, and that's tough to do if you're 400 pounds," Herremans said. "But we've always been drafting athletic linemen. With Juan, he wanted great big athletic linemen. Howard just wants athletic linemen. He doesn't care. If you can get the job done at 280 pounds, you're fine. If you can get it done at 370 pounds, you can still get it done. As long as you're productive with what you have, that's what it's about."
The Eagles' offensive line still needs to come together. It'll have a rookie starting at right guard in Danny Watkins. It looks as though newcomer Ryan Harris is in line to start at right tackle. And rookie center Jason Kelce has been sharing snaps with Jackson in practice and could be in line to steal the starting center's job. So part of what the Eagles are doing is getting used to each other, which is critical for any line. As for Mudd's ideas, Herremans believes there's plenty of value in learning new things.
"I like it," he said. "Obviously, I knew it was going to take some getting used to, but it's part of the process. In college, I switched coaches after my second year, and I thought the world was going to end. But it ended up probably being the best thing for me, just seeing that there was more than one way of doing things. And I welcome the change now because I know that, in the big picture, it'll probably end up making me a better player."