Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Mailata’s make-or-break moment is upon us

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With Andre Dillard now the heir apparent at left tackle, the preseason marks a make-or-break moment for Philadelphia Eagles lineman Jordan Mailata.

Last summer, there wasn’t a more hyped player on the Philadelphia Eagles‘ roster than Jordan Mailata.

A 6-foot-8, 346 pound monster of a man who literally outgrew the sport of rugby in his native Australia, Mailata physically looked like the kind of player who could bookend an offensive line for a decade-plus, and become the second-highest-paid Australian athlete in the City of Brotherly Love behind his compatriot Ben Simmons.

Was this a lot of pressure to put on the back of a then-20-year-old seventh-round pick who never played competitive football even at the college level? Totally, but with Jason Peters showing the first(ish) signs of breaking down at the ancient-for-football age of 36, and the team having a firm desire to maintain one of the best offensive lines in a game, Mailata looked like the rare long-shot bet that could actually pay off to a massive return.

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What a difference a year makes.

Since spending his entire rookie season inactive – albeit on the 53-man roster – the Eagles have drafted their actual left tackle of the future in Washington State mauler Andre Dillard – effectively guaranteeing the most athletic tackle duo in the league for the foreseeable future.

And as for Mailata? Well, he’s become a bit of an afterthought.

Sure, many still have high hopes that Mailata could develop into a starting-caliber offensive tackle, or at the very least a swing tackle off the bench moving forward, but with Dillard now in place, it’s clear he’s no longer viewed as the heir apparent and has much less pressure to develop over the short-term.

However, his lack of a clearly defined role moving forward could actually hurt his long-term prospects with the team.

With a bevy of other Day 3 draftees on rookie contracts also vying for only a few roster spots this summer, like 2016 TCU tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and 2017 TCU guard Matt Pryor, not to mention everyone’s favorite former Penn State lifer Stefen Wisniewski, the Birds may not be able to devote a roster spot to Mailata if he can’t actually contribute on the field in some capacity as a deep bench reserve.

Which is why this summer, specifically these next four preseason games, could all but make or break his NFL future.

Presumably playing across the line from Dillard on the Eagles’ second-team offensive line – bookending a unit that could also include Vaitai, Wisniewski, and Pryor – fans, pundits, and most importantly, the coaching staff alike will have a front-row seat to directly compare Mailata’s progression to that of the team’s other reserves.

Is it fair to compare a player like Mailata to one of the most polished pass blockers to come out of the NCAA in recent memory in Dillard, a first-round selection that Philly had to trade up to acquire? No, not really, but even if Dillard is noticeably higher on the depth chart than Mailata, with even Vaitai potentially taking snaps above the Australian transplant, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a justified comparison.

For how far Vaitai’s ceiling has fallen with the Eagles, at least he’s cross-training at guard and is an all but lock to be on the team’s 46 man game-day roster if he makes the roster in September.

Next. Let the Nelson Agholor farewell tour begin. dark

If Jordan Mailata continues his struggles into the preseason – as he was routinely beaten in one-on-ones by borderline NFL rotational end Joe Ostman during training camp – his tenure as a tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles may rapidly approaching its conclusion. But hey, he could always switch positions and transition to defensive tackle.