It appears as though Demetress Bell, who was signed in the summer to replace the injured Jason Peters but lost his job in training camp to King Dunlap, is going to be the Philadelphia Eagles' starting left tackle again Sunday and possibly for the foreseeable future. So as part of my all-22 breakdown of Sunday night's Eagles victory over the New York Giants, I took a specific look at the way Bell played against the Giants' formidable defensive line.
The conclusion? Not too bad, though for most of the game the Eagles gave him a lot of help and little responsibility. Bell was on the field for 47 plays in the first three quarters, and he had either one or two tight ends lined up with him on 23 of those (48.9 percent). For some reason, though, the Eagles took away Bell's help in the fourth quarter, lining up one or more tight ends on just four of his 21 plays in the fourth (19.0 percent). It's possible they just wanted to change things up and give the Giants a different look in the fourth. It's possible they needed more help on the right side, where they ran most of their plays on their final drive. And I did see wide receiver Jeremy Maclin line up on Bell's side a few times late, maybe just in case.
Either way, going into this game, Bell vs. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul looked like the night's biggest mismatch. But when asked to block Pierre-Paul one-on-one, Bell held up fine. I counted 14 plays on which he had to block Pierre-Paul with no help, and only two on which I believe he was clearly beaten -- on a Bryce Brown lost-yardage run on the Eagles' second possession and a Michael Vick three-yard run on their third. In general, he showed good strength and did not seem to be bullied by Pierre-Paul. He got a bunch of help from tight end Brent Celek early, but he was handling things alone more as the game went along. One of his standout plays is the Eagles' first play of the fourth quarter, where he handles Pierre-Paul throughout a play that takes 23 seconds and stays with him long enough that the block holds up once the play turns left and LeSean McCoy picks up six yards.
Bell saw more of Osi Umenyiora than he did of Pierre-Paul. I counted 19 plays on which he had to block Umenyiora 1-on-1, and three on which it appears Umenyiora beats him. These include the final play of the first quarter, on which Umenyiora tackles Brown for no gain, a first-and-10 with 9:13 left in the second quarter, on which Umenyiora blows up the play and makes Vick rush a throw, and the sack on the Eagles' final meaningful offensive play of the game, which leads to the go-ahead field goal. But in general, Bell is able to handle Umenyiora physically as he is Pierre-Paul.
Bell looks best when heading upfield to clear out room in the run game. That's where he appears to be at his most comfortable, as opposed to 1-on-1 against a defensive end. What made Peters so special last year was that he could take out the end and still get upfield to handle the linebacker. No one can really replace that ability, and I think it's limiting the Eagles in the screen game in particular so far this year. But if the play is a called run, Bell does a pretty good job of getting out on a linebacker and opening up room in case McCoy can get to the second level.
He does often give the impression of a player still working on the scheme, and there are several plays on the tape on which it appears he has nothing to do, either because his tight end help is taking care of things or because the play ran to the right side. And there are a few plays on which I have to admit I'm not sure whether he did his job or not, since I wasn't in the offensive line meetings last week. Here are some things I saw that either went or may have gone wrong for Bell on Sunday:
On the first play of the second quarter, Bell blocks inside, where help is not needed, because Vick is handing the ball off to wide receiver Damaris Johnson. It's a confusing play, but the end result is that two Giants defenders are totally unblocked on the left side and there to meet Johnson for a one-yard loss. I can't help but think Bell could have been helpful on the outside had he stayed there, but no one on either side seems to know exactly where to go on that play.
The very next play is an incomplete pass on third-and-11, and while Bell has both tight ends lined up on his side, I can't help but wonder if he should have picked up the blitzing defensive back.
There's a 1st-and-10 play later in the second quarter on which Bell lets Pierre-Paul go free so he can help out on the defensive tackle, but Pierre-Paul bites on the play-action fake so it doesn't end up mattering. Is it possible Bell doubling on the inside is a way of helping to sell the fake? If so, seems dangerous.
On third-and-six late in the third quarter, Bell doesn't seem to know what he's supposed to do. He gets pushed outside and jumbled up with Celek's block, and Mathias Kiwanuka ends up unblocked inside of Bell and gets a hit on Vick.
But again, these seem like evidence of a guy still learning where he's supposed to be in the scheme and getting it right on most plays, if not all of them. And Bell's performance Sunday certainly represents improvement over where he was in camp. At the very least, you can see he's physically capable of the job. If the assumption is that he'll keep learning and improving, he's got a chance to hold onto the job all year.