Former Eagles O-Lineman Barrett Brooks Handicaps LT Battle

Brooks offered his take on the projected LT battle between Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard
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PHILADELPHIA - You can use ink when discussing the Eagles' offensive line depth chart at four of the five positions in 2021.

All-Pro center Jason Kelce will be flanked to the right by fellow stars Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson, while Isaac Semualo will handle the left guard spot again. Any uncertainty among that group revolves around health with Brooks (Achilles') and Johnson (ankle surgery) set to return from significant injuries.

The left tackle position will presumably be decided in training camp with another player returning from injury, 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard (torn biceps) trying to fend off Jordan Mailata, the one-time developmental project who came on like gangbusters late last season when forced into the lineup.

Former Eagles offensive lineman Barrett Brooks handicapped the competition with SI.com's EagleMaven on BIRDS365 Friday.

"They're going to give him [Dillard] an opportunity but what I saw last year and the turning point for me when I was thinking, 'alright, Jordan Mailata has finally put the ukulele down (the Aussie is a heck of a singer for those who don't know) and became a player was the Dallas game [in Week 8],'" said Brooks, a former Super Bowl winner with Pittsburgh.

"He figured out, 'Wow if I put my hands on people and I start choking people and dominating people, I feel really good about myself. I like this.'"

Mailata, who started a right tackle in that game in place of Johnson, did a number on Cowboys star Demarcus Lawrence, according to Brooks, an Eagles' second-round pick in 1995 who played in Philadelphia for four seasons.

"He started manhandling Lawrence and I was like 'You know, this is what I needed to see,'" said Brooks. "He started throwing them around a little bit and he saw that he could finish plays and once a player gets that in his head that 'alright, I'm a dominant player and I can finish plays,' it's gonna make him a better player."

At 6-foot-8 and 350 pounds, Mailata has all the size, strength, and athleticism to excel but never played a down of football at any level before moving and being essentially recruited into the sport thanks to his prodigious physical gifts.

The Eagles took a flyer on the former rugby player in the seventh round of the 2018 draft and handed the biggest piece of clay ever to well-regarded offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

There have been stops and starts along the way but Mailata began to take off when being forced into action last season.

"I think he was thinking through stuff too much," Brooks assessed. "Now he understands the sets. He's finally an offensive lineman and not just a great athlete."

Johnson offered a similar critique to SI.com Eagle Maven earlier in the week when it came to Mailata.

"You look at Mailata and where he started and where he ended up, The season that he had. ... Steady improvement and that's what you want to see," said Johnson.

Brooks offered a far harsher assessment when it came to Dillard, a natural pass protector who took some criticism as a rookie when he failed to fight through a move to right tackle when he was needed there in 2019.

"You can't buy heart," said Brooks. "You can't go see the wizard and get the heart."

Competition is what new coach Nick Sirianni has stressed and to date, Brooks hasn't seen the fire from Dillard.

"I've never seen a guy more happy to be injured and be put on IR," Brooks said. "It's almost like the Sound of Music was flowing through his head. He was on the sidelines with the sling on last year, I'm like 'Come on man, are you kidding me?' He was happy on IR to me."

Brooks noted the critique was personal and others may have seen things differently but didn't let up.

"... That's just me, though. He said all the right things but your body language and what you do on the field tells all," the former 11-year pro said. "The eye in the sky will never lie and I saw a guy who didn't want to play."

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.