Sometimes, the NFL isn’t a meritocracy.
Sometimes, a pair of players will duke it out for a starting role and take things right down to the wire, only for their coordinator, coach, or GM to simply give the nod to the player drafted higher or on the more expensive/expansive contract whether they technically won the competition or not.
Is that a tough pill to swallow for a player who puts it all on the line, does their best, and still finds themselves sidelined? Sure, but unfortunately, such occurrences happen all the time; just ask Travis Fulgham in 2020.
Well, fear not Philadelphia Eagles fans, for that is not going to happen at the left tackle spot. After weeks of back and forth competition, the Jordan Mailata will all but surely start out the 2021 NFL season protecting Jalen Hurts‘ blindside, as his opponent, Andre Dillard, has been sidelined with a knee sprain.
Meet your left tackle of the future, Philadelphia Eagles fans.
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Jordan Mailata’s path to the NFL is anything but typical.
The 233rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft – a pick the Philadelphia Eagles actually traded up in the seventh round to acquire – Mailata initially pursued a career in Rugby before quite literally growing out of the position and shifting his attention to football.
When you’re 6-foot-8, 346 pounds, I guess that’s the sort of decision you can make.
With limited options to hotshot his path to the NFL in his native Australia, Mailata took part in the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program before committing to IMG Academy in Florida to properly prepare for his football career. In 2017, Mailata tried on football pads for the first time, and by August of 2018, he was on the field with the Eagles’ third-stringers in a preseason showdown versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots, the Cleveland Browns, and the New York Jets.
Was Mailata good? No. But hey, when you’ve been playing offensive tackle for less time than it’s taken to produce the new Avatar movie, that’s to be expected. Maillata sat out all of the 2018 and 2019 NFL seasons and became a bit of an urban legend around the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.
Fortunately, much like Embiid, Mailata found his way into action by his third professional season and turned in some pretty impressive showings right out of the gate.
With a huge wingspan, a wide frame, and a sturdy base, Mailata one thousand present passes the eye test. Despite being one of the heaviest players in the NFL, Mailata is a lean, mean, blocking machine, looking more like long-time Cowboys bookend Tyron Smith than, say, late-career Jason Peters, who looked like a barrel on stilts.
Fortunately, the eye test wasn’t the only one Mailata passed in his debut NFL campaign. Thrust into action due to an Andre Dillard torn bicep, Mailata appeared in 15 games with 10 starts and put in enough good tape to effectively retire Jason Peters once and for all and warrant a genuine left tackle competition heading into the final year of his contract.
Minus any sort of momentum-altering injury, Mailata likely would have still won out the left tackle competition, as he’s routinely bested Dillard during camp and looked superior at the team’s open practice, but with the Birds’ 2019 first-round pick on the shelf for the rest of the summer, there shouldn’t even be a question as to who will be protecting Jalen Hurts’ blindside this fall.
Really, the true shame on this scenario is that Howie Roseman won’t be afforded an opportunity to shop Dillard mid-way through the preseason, as he likely could have fetched a solid return from a tackle-desperate team. Could Dillard and, say, a Day 2 pick have been enough to snatch away C. J. Henderson from the Jacksonville Jaguars? *sigh* I guess we’ll never know.
Is Jordan Mailata the Philadelphia Eagles’ next great left tackle? Will he slot right into the hole left by Jason Peters and fill the role for a decade-plus too? And what about his next contract? Could Mailata go from being the 23rd to last player selected in the 2018 NFL Draft to a $100 million man, as The Daily Telegraph suggested earlier this summer? Only time will tell, but needless to say, it’s a good problem to have for Nick Sirianni, Howie Roseman, and company.