For the first time in years, the Eagles are undergoing a somewhat significant shift on the offensive line, a group that has been the strength of the team through three consecutive postseason appearances.
The most high-profile change is at left tackle where the Eagles made the difficult decision to move on from future Hall of Famer Jason Peters and hand the baton to 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard.
There are other changes, however, namely versatile backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai cashing in during free agency with Detroit, a somewhat unavoidable denouement for Philadelphia.
Jeff Stoutland still stands to have a top 10 O-Line in 2020 because center-right of the group still features three All-Pro level talents in Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson. There were some hiccups along the way but Isaac Seumalo has settled down to become a more than competent starter at left guard and Dillard has all the skill in the world to be a top-tier pass protector if he just gets a bit stronger to handle the bull rush.
The goal in the 2020 draft was to replenish the bench and Stoutland and Co. looked to Auburn to do it, drafting both tackles from the SEC powerhouse, RT Jack Driscoll in the fourth round, and the supremely talented LT Prince Tega Wanagho in the sixth round.
The projections are different, however, as the MBA educated Driscoll was targeted to move inside at the pro level in the hopes of tapping into another Stefen Wisniewski-type who can move seamlessly between both guard positions and center if needed.
Driscoll was pegged by most NFL teams as a guard at the next level and had already started working on the transition to the interior, understanding the more versatile he became the more valuable he will be.
“I had talked to my offensive line coach at Auburn, J.B. Grimes and we had an offensive analyst, Coach Kendall Simmons who played for the Steelers for nine years," said Driscoll during his introductory video conference call.
"They both just said to me, ‘Look, you might be able to play tackle in the NFL and you probably can. At the same time, a lot of guys will see you as an interior guy, center, and guard, and the more you can do, the more valuable you are to a team. If you only play one position, you're not really that valuable. But being able to snap and being able to set and stuff at center is huge.
“And it's something that, look, like I said, I wanted to create the most value I could and show a team that I'm worthy of one of their draft picks. That's why I said I worked really hard on the center position and snapping and just making sure I got it down.”
The one thing Stoutland loves about Wisniewski was the cerebral nature of his game as a long-time pivot in Oakland and Jacksonville before arriving in Philadelphia. When Kelce and Wiz played side by side, Stoutland felt like he had two extended coaches on the field.
Driscoll, meanwhile, is as smart as they come. An undergrad from UMass who transferred to Auburn not only to play in college football’s toughest conference but to earn his MBA.
“A lot of fans don't realize it, but it takes so much not only physical toughness but mental toughness and mental discipline (to play on the OL),” said Driscoll. “Because one little shift in the defense and the whole block and scheme can change and audibles and checks and kills.
“... Being able to be a fast learner and pick things up quickly just makes it that much easier. Especially when I'm going to have to come in and learn a new offense. Also having the study habits I have from earning my Masters and my undergrad, will just help me kind of understand for me how I learn and what the best way for me to do that is.”
Stoutland took a keen interest in Driscoll during the pre-draft process and the two already seem to be on the same page.
“I'm confident that with the help from Coach Stoutland that he'll help me become the best center I can be,” said Driscoll. “I love to be coached and I love to learn. I'm excited for the new challenge and to play a position that the Eagles obviously have had a tremendous amount of success at, it's one of the reasons that o-line has been so good.”
Although chosen later than Driscoll, Wanogho was the more highly-touted player, a supreme physical specimen for the tackle position at 6-5 and 305 pounds with top-tier athleticism.
Here is a link from the Combine on Wanogho:
A Nigerian native Wanogho is raw but his skill set had most grading him as a second-round prospect. The fall was due to a lateral meniscus tear that Wanogho says is largely behind him.
“I’m not going to lie. It was frustrating,” Wanogho said. “And, yeah, spoke to my agent and we were thinking like I was going to go way earlier. But at the same time, God has a special plan for me, and I think this is where I'm supposed to be and this is the right fit for me.
"For my knee, just getting there, just rehabbing, trying to get back to 100 percent. I could say I'm alright now. I'm about 90 to 95 percent, so just a work in progress and just trying to get better and get back to 100 percent.”
The projection from Stoutland is for Wanogho to take Vaitai’s spot as the game-day swing tackle but the ceiling is also much higher for Wanogho with one scout telling SI.com his comp was Peters.
“We really liked his feet and quickness and ability to run off the ball and anchor in the pass game,” said VP of player personnel Andy Weidl. “We loved the competitiveness he played with, and he's a guy who didn't let up one sack this year. Really efficient pass protection. We think he fits our profile of offensive lineman that can run, get out in space, pass protect, and anchor when called upon to protect the quarterback.”
For Wanogho it’s about taking advantage of the physical gifts he’s been given and the early returns are positive that he won’t be taking anything for granted.
“I mean, as a football player you never stop learning,” Wanogho explained. “That is just a life lesson in general. I feel like I need to work on everything.”
Having a familiar face in Driscoll to work with is just the icing on the cake.
“Jack's a guy who came to Auburn three years ago and, yeah, he's a special one, too,” Wanogho said. “He's a close friend of mine, and just coming in there with Jack, that's a blessing for me, too.”
John McMullen covers the Eagles for SI.com and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every day on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, Every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio, and every weekday on ESPN 97.3 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen