PHILADELPHIA -- Jason Peters has some very lofty goals for the Eagles' offensive line under new coach Chip Kelly.
"Try to be the best," Peters said after practice Wednesday. "Try to give up the least sacks ever in Eagles history. That’s the first goal. Get a championship. We’ve got an athletic line. If we come together, we’re going to win some games because it starts with us."
The Eagles' team record for fewest sacks allowed is 22. That was back in 1981, when ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski was the quarterback and the starting tackles were Stan Walters and Jerry Sisemore. As recently as 2008, the final year Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan and Donovan McNabb played together, the team allowed 23 sacks.
Last year, the Eagles allowed 48 sacks. That was fifth most in the NFL and a major reason for Michael Vick's struggles and the team's 4-12 record. It would take an enormous improvement to get from 48 to anywhere near the team record. If it's possible, Peters will have much to do with it. He missed all of last season after tearing his Achilles tendon twice in the offseason.
The Eagles were plagued by injuries all along the line: Center Jason Kelce tore up his knee in Week 2 and missed the rest of the season. Right tackle Todd Herremans missed eight games. Three different players started at right guard. Only left guard Evan Mathis started all 16 games.
"I view Mike [Vick] as a Pro Bowler," Peters said. "You saw what he did when he had his offensive line. He got the big contract, went to the Pro Bowl. When you don’t have your offensive line as a quarterback, your play is going to drop. That’s what happened. He was fumbling the ball, also. That all comes from not having your starters. If we give him time, he’s going to make plays."
Peters did not play in the first two preseason games because of a sore hamstring, which he says was unrelated to the Achilles problem. He is expected to start Saturday night in Jacksonville.
"I’m very excited just to get back on the field," Peters said. "I haven’t been out there in over a year since I got injured."
The Eagles are excited, too. New offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland used to show his Alabama players tape of Peters as a how-to on playing left tackle. With his size, power and quickness, Peters has been a dominant player. Now he has to show he can be that again with a surgically repaired Achilles tendon and in a new, uptempo offense. The same tempo that wears out defenders also can tire out offensive linemen.
"A couple of us have been in no-huddle offenses before," Kelce said. "For Jason, I'm pretty sure it's the first time he's experienced it in a game-type situation. I'm excited for him. It is different. You definitely have a lot more fatigue. It will be good for him to experience that and realize how you weather those storms during a game."
Once Peters gets up to speed, he believes opponents are going to be "shocked" at the Eagles' offense.
"As the year goes on," he said, "people are going to try to game plan for it and get adjusted to it. But they’re going to be shocked the first couple weeks, coming at ‘em quick, fast."