Health allowed Eagles' O-line to flourish

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
8:00
AM ET
PHILADELPHIA – Numbers seldom tell the story when it comes to offensive line play. For the 2013 Eagles, though, these numbers were remarkably eloquent:

Jason Peters: 1,019.

Evan Mathis: 1,104.

Jason Kelce: 1,096.

Todd Herremans: 1,104.

Lane Johnson: 1,103.

[+] EnlargeJason Peters
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellJason Peters was one of two Philadelphia offensive linemen to earn a Pro bowl nod in 2013.
Those are the snap counts for the Eagles’ starting line, from left tackle to right tackle. Guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans played every single offensive snap. Right tackle Lane Johnson missed one play. Center Jason Kelce played 99 percent of the snaps. Left tackle Jason Peters, coming off two tears of the same Achilles tendon, played 92 percent.

A year after four of the five starting linemen were lost to injury, the Eagles enjoyed remarkable health at this most vital of positions. So it’s no surprise the line was one of the team’s strongest areas. Peters and Mathis were selected for the Pro Bowl. Kelce deserved to be.

The right side of the line wasn’t as strong, but that’s deceptive. The left side is the best in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. And the right had two players – veteran Herremans, who was relearning guard after playing tackle, and rookie Johnson – who improved noticeably as the season went on.

The line cleared the way for LeSean McCoy to lead the league in rushing and gave Nick Foles time to put up some unprecedented numbers and stake his claim to the starting quarterback spot.

There are two points to consider here. The first is that the Eagles aren’t lucky to win the injury-free lottery every year, so they will need depth behind the starting five. The other is that Peters, Mathis and Herremans are all over 30. Top reserve Allen Barbre will be 30 in June. So it makes sense to have some young linemen in development.

The Eagles do. One consequence of the starters’ health is that we never got to see any of them play.

In an interview with Bleeding Green Nation, Mathis cited Matt Tobin as a player to watch. The undrafted free agent from Iowa slipped ahead of Dennis Kelly, based on the weekly inactive list. At 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, Tobin is big enough to play tackle as well as guard.

And then there is Michael Bamiro, the 6-8, 340-pound project from Stony Brook. Bamiro spent the season working with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and his assistant, the similarly mammoth former tackle Tra Thomas.

Can Tobin, Bamiro, Kelly and center Julian Vandervelde provide enough depth behind the starters and the versatile Barbre? There is probably enough talent and potential there to make the offensive line relatively low on the priority list.

That said, the position is too important for the Eagles to pass on a player they like in the draft. That is GM Howie Roseman’s philosophy, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Eagles drafted a lineman or two.

While we’re on the line, we should mention that long snapper Jon Dorenbos had another very fine season. It’s a position you don’t think much about until a mistake is made. Dorenbos, 33, doesn’t make anyone think about it.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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