PHILADELPHIA — Howie Roseman is a Florida guy, having gotten his undergraduate degree in Gainesville, but SEC envy wasn't the reason the Eagles stayed away from Alabama when it came to the NFL Draft.
"You know, I'd like to joke and say it's something about being a Florida grad with Alabama, but the reality is my wife's family is from Mobile and they're Alabama fans,” Roseman said before the draft back in April.
Like most NFL personnel chiefs, Roseman has tremendous respect for what Nick Saban has built in Tuscaloosa and it was purely circumstance the kept the Eagles from the Alabama pipeline since they selected Freddie Milons in the fifth round of the 2002 draft.
“You know, I think we look at Alabama as a program that's incredibly well run," said Roseman. "The NFL players that come out of there are ready to play and ready to go. I know there's a lot of guys on our draft board at the University of Alabama not only in this draft but in a lot of other drafts."
If you think that was lip service and that the loyalty to the Gators was more than Roseman was leading on, the 2021 draft derailed that thinking when Philadelphia did the Nick Sirianni-patented double-down this year, getting Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith at No. 10 overall and following up at No. 37 by selecting All-American offensive lineman Landon Dickerson.
While Smith already looks like a star, Dickerson,23 himself has slowly been improving since being forced into the lineup due to injuries to the Week 1 starting guards - Brandon Brooks and Issac Seumalo.
“I think he's just getting more and more comfortable with the different looks that he's getting from the defense and the different movements and the speed of the game and the strength of the game,” head coach Nick Sirianni told SI.com Eagle Maven on Monday.
Dickerson was only available with the 37th pick because he was coming off a torn ACL suffered last December and missed all of his first professional offseason until being cleared to play two weeks in advance of the season opener in Atlanta.
He was thrown into the deep end of the pool at right guard when Brooks suffered a pec injury in Week 2 against San Francisco. When Seumalo went down with a Lisfranc injury the next week, Dickerson was then shifted to LG against Kansas City by Week 4.
At 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds, Dickerson struggled early in pass protection but has really turned the corner as the Eagles shifted to a more run-heavy approach over the past month,
“I think he had a really good game [Sunday in the 30-13 win at Denver],” said Sirianni. “We graded him out really well. And he played a really good game. ... he'll be getting a game ball with the rest of the offensive line. Any time you rush for over 200 yards, that offensive line is going to get a game ball."
ProFootballFocus.com has graded Dickerson as No. 24 of 77 OGs when it comes to run blocker and No. 53 of 72 when it comes to pass protection so there is plenty of room for improvement.
"Landon was drafted where he was for a reason," offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said on Tuesday. "Obviously, Howie saw that in him. I think everyone knew he was a good player and what he's been able to do these last couple weeks and keep improving and grinding.
"He's a big, physical guy. So, when he gets those one-on-ones, he’s doing a good job. And when he's double-teaming guys – when you can get 600 pounds on 300 pounds on double-teams, it's going to help."
Lane Johnson also noted what teaming Dickerson with the 6-8, 380-pound Jordan Mailata can look like for an opposing defense.
“We’ve got some big boys on the line now,” Johnson said. “You go to the left side– Landon, and Jordan, those guys getting healthy, and those humans are moving people.”
Sirianni highlighted Dickerson's development with a play late in the game against the Broncos.
"There was our last run of the day [Sunday] when we were in that four-minute [offense]," said the coach. "We had to get another first down to end the game. We couldn't take a knee because there was, like, [2:05] left. We saw him pull around the edge – we've seen him dominate inside and be able to move. But then [Sunday], on that play, he was able to pull and was able to get out in the space and show athleticism out in space.”
Dickerson is typically his own harshest critic.
“It’d be pointless to say I’ve arrived somewhere,” Dickerson said earlier this month. “I mean, I’m a rookie in the NFL. I’ve been doing all right by what I think and the coaches think I need to do, but there’s no point in getting satisfied. Because you get complacent. And you get complacent, you stop playing in the NFL."
That mentality has not gone unnoticed.
“I continue to see Landon get better,” Sirianni said. “He cares, he's tough, he's physical and he's going to just keep getting better.”
-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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.