Lane Johnson and Jack Driscoll are the Philadelphia Eagles’ tackles of the future.
Going into the 2020 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles‘ offensive line looked like arguably one of the best individual units in the NFL.
With nine-Pro Bowls and four All-Pros between the team’s center, right guard, and right tackle alone, it looks like the Eagles would be able to run, pass, and run-pass option their way through the shambled NFC East in route to a fourth-straight trip to the postseason. Who knows, with Miles Sanders stepping up into a more expansive role, the Eagles could finally field that top-10 defense that has eluded them since 2017.
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It all started when Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achillies all the way back in June. While his loss certainly could have come at a better time, as the start of free agency and the draft had long since past, many assumed the Eagles would be able to weather Brooks’ absence without too much issue. Matt Pryor played fairly well in his stead in 2019, so all good, right?
Then, a few weeks later, it happened again: Andre Dillard pulled up bad on a training camp snap and was swiftly placed on season-ending IR with a torn biceps.
Again, really not good but it’s a good thing the Eagles opted to bring back Jason Peters to play right guard a few weeks earlier, right? Peters played very well in 2019 when actually on the field and should be able to provide at least one more serviceable season before riding off into the sunset as an Eagles all-timer.
*hangs head* you might want to sit down.
Fast forward to the postmortem of Week 3 of the 2020 NFL season and the Eagles’ offensive line is a mess. Peters is off to arguably his worst season as a pro – more on that from our friend Tra Thomas here – Isaac Seumalo is on IR, and the team’s guards, Nate Herbig and Pryor, are having issues even against a less than formidable, Geno Atkins-less Bengals defensive line. While the Eagles could recompose their line yet again to try to get things right heading into a 7 pm romp against the San Francisco 49ers, swapping out Pryor for Jamon Brown on the right side, that feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
No, if the Philadelphia Eagles really want to shake things up and put themselves in the best position to succeed, they need to get their best five players on the field. How would they do that? By moving Lane Johnson to left tackle once and for all.
I know, I know, crazy, right? It’s not like Johnson was drafted to play left tackle all the way back in 2013, is one of the top-2 most athletically gifted tackles in the NFL, and arguably the Eagles’ best player regardless of position. With left tackle the more valuable position on the offensive line than right tackle, it seems so incredibly obvious for a team to place their best offensive tackle on that side, right?
Well, in theory, that’s what should have happened, only Peters just kept coming back over and over again. But now, with Peters’ play signifying that the end of the road is rapidly approaching, it might be time to make the switch once and for all and move into the next era of Eagles’ offensive line play.
That’s right, in a move that would subsequently kick Peters back to right guard, and give Jack Driscoll a shot to earn his spot as the team’s long-term right tackle moving forward, placing Johnson at his college position would instantly upgrade Carson Wentz‘s blindside blocking while putting the Eagles in the best position to succeed both now and moving forward.
Still not convinced? Allow me to elaborate.
First and foremost, Peters is not in the right shape to play left tackle, let alone as a 38-year-old in his 17th season in the league. Per Les Bowen, Peters actually bulked up with the intention to play right guard coming into camp, which explains why he looks so sluggish facing off against speedsters like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Carl Lawson. Moving Peters back to right guard could help to stop the bleeding coming off the edge, and would frankly put Peters into a better position to succeed at this point in his career.
Is moving Peters back to guard after paying him $5 million to switch to tackle a bummer? Sure, but at this point, the Eagles need to do whatever they can to keep Wentz upright until Brooks comes back in 2021. While trading for a player like Joe Thuney is far more attractive, surrendering a premium pick for a player on the last year of his rookie contract makes very little sense for a cash-strapped team with a Pro Bowler coming back next season.
Furthermore, by moving Johnson to right tackle, it would allow Driscoll a chance to prove whether or not he can be a serious starter for the Birds moving forward.
For as crazy as it may be to say – be kind in the comments section – Driscoll very well may have a higher floor as a starting tackle than Andre Dillard, despite having been selected 123 picks later in his draft class. Like Dillard, Driscoll is a supreme athlete for his position, and even with smaller, t-rex arms, could be a capable people mover in a zone-blocking scheme. Sure, he surrendered a sack in Week 1 but so did pretty much every other offensive lineman on the Eagles roster. With a little extra work to avoid the sort of mental mistakes anyone should expect from a rookie making his NFL debut, Driscoll very well may be the kind of player a team can build around.
Is Jack Driscoll the next Lane Johnson? No, but clearly having the best right tackle in the biz only goes so far when your left tackle is a walking turnstile.
If given a chance to compete one-on-one in training camp for their respective positions, it’s entirely possible Dillard may be shipped off to some other tackle-needy team next summer to free up a spot for Driscoll on the right side.
Would flipping Lane Johnson to left tackle immediately fix the team? No, the Philadelphia Eagles have a slew of issues both personnel-wise and in their scheming that wouldn’t magically be mitigated with a perfect offensive line. With that being said, there’s a reason Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman drafted Johnson fourth overall out of Oklahoma all the way back in 2013 over his Oregon edge rusher Dion Jordan: To play left tackle. Even if it’s a tad unconventional to ask Johnson to make that transition in his eighth professional season at the tender age of 30, it’s better late than never – especially with the season on the line.