Examining the NFC East: Offensive Lines
Our daily series examining the NFC East from a positional perspective with the help of league personnel sources shifts to the offensive side of the football, specifically the area that has set Philadelphia and Dallas apart at the top of the division, the offensive line.
The Eagles still have the impressive right side with three All-Pro level players when you add center Jason Kelce to right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson.
There is change on the left side, however, where 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard is set to take over for future Hall of Famer Jason Peters, although the pandemic-fueled virtual offseason seems to have Philadelphia at least thinking about bringing Peters back for one more season.
The plan seems to be, see where Dillard is when training camp opens, and if he’s not ready, hope Peters is still waiting by the phone. From all accounts, Peters would rather stay with the Eagles than start over elsewhere at 38 but that could obviously change.
Left guard Issac Seumalo is also entrenched and has progressed nicely outside of one really poor performance against Atlanta in Week 2 last season.
“The Eagles believe in building up front and it’s served them well,” a former AFC personnel executive told SI.com. “Dillard needs to get stronger but he’s a natural at pass pro. They should be top five (in the NFL) again.”
The Cowboys’ riches start with two All-Pro level players in left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zach Martin. Center Travis Frederick was once at that level as well until being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome back in 2018. He returned last season but has now retired. The new No. 3 man on the Dallas totem pole is right tackle Lael Collins, who has developed into a top-tier player at the position.
No. 4 - Washington Redskins - The halcyon days when Trent Williams was dominating at left tackle have officially closed after the Pro Bowl-staple was dealt to San Francisco during the draft. Any hope of a new coach ending the stalemate with Williams, who sat out the 2019 campaign over his disdain with the organization, proved to be just that.
With the page officially turned, right guard Brandon Scherff is now the guy in the D.C. O-line room and the strength of the group along with RT Morgan Moses. From there it’s hit and miss with center Chase Roullier and a left side in which newcomers Wes Schweitzer and Cornelius Lucas are penciled in.
The Redskins did get some nice prospects in the middle rounds of the draft in Saahdiq Charles and Keith Ismael but they’ve clearly taken a step back at a traditional area of strength in a division loaded with OL talent.
“You don’t just replace a player like Williams,” an AFC scout said, "but they know he’s been gone for a while. The left side is going to be a problem."
No. 3 - New York Giants - The O-Line has been an issue with the Giants for years but things are getting better and the organization invested the fourth overall pick in Andrew Thomas, who will be penciled in at RT opposite Nate Solder to start, although LT is likely the long-term home. Inside, Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler are very good at guard with center Spencer Pulley being the lone question mark.
In a short time this has gone from a bottom-five offensive line that should rank in the top half of the league with a ceiling even higher due to the presence of Thomas.
The depth was bolstered by two more picks - third-round tackle Matt Peart and fifth-round guard Shane Lemieux, along with free-agent pickup Cameron Fleming.
“It’s a good group (on paper) and you can see the worm finally turning,” a former NFC scout said.
No. 2 - Dallas Cowboys - Joe Looney certainly isn’t Frederick in his prime at center and Connor Williams has just been OK at left guard but the Cowboys have done a nice job in bringing in competition starting with fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz, a star center at Wisconsin like Frederick once was. Also around to push things are 2019 third-round pick Connor McGovern and free-agent pickup Cam Erving.
“It’s a deep and talented group,” a former NFC scout said. “If they can figure out who replaces Travis and Tyron stays healthy it could get back to where it once was as the best group in the league.”
No. 1 - Philadelphia Eagles - Other than making the final decision at LT the biggest issue for the Eagles will be depth now that Halapoulivaati Vaitai got big money in Detroit.
They might have to piecemeal it at swing tackle if late-round pick Prince Tega Wanogho or long-term project Jordan Mailata can't be ramped up. Matt Pryor proved to be competent at right guard last season and could also play right tackle.
Another rookie, Jack Driscoll who played RT at Auburn opposite Wanogho, is expected to shift to an interior backup under Jeff Stoutland’s tutelage. He and Nate Herbig, a second-year undrafted player out of Stanford, could also be in the mix as interior backups.
“Depth is a concern with Vaitai but the Auburn kids are good,” an AFC scout said. “I’m not sure how early you can get them ready because of what’s going on but those were good picks.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen