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Sunday, August 7, 2011
Breaking down the Eagles' offensive line

By Matt Williamson

The Eagles have made a ton of changes to their roster. In fact, in my recent post-lockout grades piece Insider, I gave Philadelphia an A-plus.

Jason Peters
Left tackle Jason Peters anchors Philadelphia's deep, talented offensive line.
It really doesn’t get any better than that folks. A ton of huge names are being discussed in all the various media markets, but today, I want to focus on the Eagles’ offensive line. Philadelphia’s front five should be vastly improved. And there are a ton more options at Andy Reid and new line coach Howard Mudd’s disposal.

Jason Peters is entrenched as the left tackle. He gets far more criticism in the public eye than he deserves. In my opinion, he is easily one of the top-five players in the NFL at his position.

At left guard, Todd Herremans is the incumbent. He has done well in that spot. But his body type is long and leaner. He isn’t built like the prototypical guard. I think there is a chance Philadelphia considers playing him at right tackle, where I think he could do quite well. He is a very good run blocker without compromising the agility needed to protect the edge.

Jamaal Jackson is a favorite of mine -- when he is healthy. He is a powerful center who can move heavy nose tackle-types off the ball. And he isn’t a liability in space or in protection. But the whole key with Jackson is health. Rookie Jason Kelce, who’s been getting a lot of first-team reps, is also in the mix at center.

The Eagles used their first-round pick on Danny Watkins. A tackle at Baylor, Watkins is projected to play guard at this level. I do think he could contribute as a right tackle for Philadelphia if need-be. Even with the lack of practice time during the lockout being considered, you don’t draft guards in the first round to use them as reserves. He is sure to start at guard, probably on the right side. I think Watkins will be a Pro Bowl guard before long.

At right tackle, I mentioned that Herremans could be an option, but the most logical starter here is newly signed Ryan Harris. Like Jackson, durability has been the No. 1 negative with Harris. But this is a guy who was excellent in Denver’s quicker zone-blocking scheme. Harris is a well above-average athlete for an NFL right tackle and exactly what Mudd looks for at the position.

Although it seems that the starting five is set as it stands today, there are other factors at work here. Philadelphia also signed Evan Mathis, a pure guard, away from the Bengals. Cincinnati didn’t give him the opportunity that he deserved and the Eagles wisely pounced on him. But he has performed like a starter when given the opportunity.

Winston Justice has been the starting right tackle now for a few seasons. He remains in the picture, but had a rough time last season. Mudd could get him back to his 2009 form and there certainly is talent here.

Mike McGlynn is a versatile inside guy who also could be a factor going forward, but most likely only if Jackson continues to struggle to stay on the field.

I expect the Eagles' offensive line to be very much improved this season. Due to better coaching, better players and far more options, this could be one of the top-five lines in the league.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.