Andre Dillard isn’t on social media anymore, but the Eagles rookie left tackle had his suspicions on what was being posted heading into Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
“I can guarantee people (were) like Khalil Mack this against the rookie, Khalil Mack, Khalil Mack, I can guarantee everybody was doing that,” said Dillard after the Eagles dispatched one of the league’s best defenders in Mack and his teammates 22-14.
“For me when I’m studying film, he’s No. 52, No. 52, No. 94, that’s just how I see it. No. 97 likes to do this, No. 52 likes to do this, just put aside the crazy hype and stuff; just another player when it comes down to it.”
During film study it’s easy to reduce a player to his number only. When kickoff comes, it can be a bit different, especially when it’s Mack.
“I was like holy crap, this is Khalil Mack right in front of me,” said Dillard. “I watched him on TV before I was even here. He’s really an amazing player, strong, fast, he’s got it all really. I just did everything that I was trained to do and survived it.”
Dillard has survived three weeks of starting in place of Jason Peters, who has a knee injury.
Actually, Dillard has done more than survive. He has thrived, and it has reached a point where the Eagles may need to consider keeping Dillard locked in as the starter even when Peters is finally ready to return.
“His confidence is just growing,” said tight end Zach Ertz. “At that position I feel your confidence is the number one thing. You can put away all the athleticism, the weight, whatever it is, but at the end of the day, if you’re a confident tackle it’s going to take you a long way. It’s not something that happens overnight.
“It’s something that happens for a couple wins early on and it just keeps growing and growing and growing. The kid’s played a lot of good pass rushers these past couple weeks and he’s battled his butt off. Really proud of him the way he’s battled. He’s going to be a heckuva player.”
Head coach Doug Pederson said heading into the game that the Mack challenge would be the greatest of Dillard’s young career.
Mack still filled up the stat sheet nicely, with four tackles, two for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass defended, but he didn’t have a sack nor did he change the momentum of the game with any death-defying hit or single play.
Dillard had help, for sure, with the Eagles using two tight ends for most of the game, but that is just par for the course in the NFL.
“We’re not going to put our tackles in position to be on an island against two of the best pass rushers in the league, especially Khalil Mack,” said Ertz. “You’re not going to be successful as an offense if you expect your tackle to block him one on one even though (right tackle) Lane (Johnson) could probably do it, but we’re not going to ask that of them.”
Now Dillard will head into a much-needed bye week.
“Being a rookie we’ve been kind of going and going since the end of college,” said Dillard. “It’ll be nice to kind of get some rest. It’s kind of a big shock how much more taxing and difficult the NFL is compared to college, so it’s kind of good to get the feel for how things go, how the season flows and everything.”
Asked what he’ll do on his week off, Dillard simply said: “Rest, recover, hang out.”
Dillard has certainly earned it.