Liftoff for Landon Dickerson Has Arrived

The Eagles' second-round pick was cleared to return to practice Monday less than two weeks in advance of the regular-season opener
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PHILADELPHIA - You may have figured it out when Landon Dickerson showed up for a preseason game against the New England Patriots donning his overalls and cowboy boots.

The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Hickory, N.C. native might be a premium draft pick in the NFL and he might have been the best center in college football at that level's most prestigious program, the University of Alabama, but Dickerson is also a 22-year-old good ole' boy eager to please.

And if the personnel evaluators are right, Dickerson is going to be one of the better interior offensive linemen in the league sooner rather than later.

The good news for the Eagles is that they have the luxury of soon not needing to be Week 1 at Atlanta when Jeff Stoutland's interior will read Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, and Brandon Brooks from left to right.

Later, however, will also not be Week 7, the earliest timetable Dickerson could have followed if the Eagles had kept the No. 37 overall pick on the non-football injury list to start the season, stemming from the ACL tear he suffered at Alabama last December.

Dickerson got the all-clear to participate in practice for the first time as an Eagles player Monday, at least for the stretching portion of things, along with individual drills.

"It felt great to be back out on the field," Dickerson said afterward. "I know I’ve been on the sideline watching, but it’s a tremendous feeling to be a part of the team again, get back out there, and be with my guys and my teammates.

"I’ve trusted the process with the staff here, the athletic training team, the doctors, and all that stuff. It’s really just been whenever I’ve felt comfortable and they felt comfortable with me getting back on the field."

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When deemed healthy and ready to go Dickerson figures to be the top backup at all three interior line positions usurping Nate Herbig, who played very well at times last season when forced into action due to injuries.

Herbig, however, struggled a bit when the Eagles tried to ramp up his cross-training at center this summer and Dickerson started his process Monday as the second-team OC behind Kelce in individual work.

"It’s up to the coaching staff," Dickerson said when asked where he might play. "If [Nick Sirianni] wants me to snap today, play a little bit of center, that's what am I going to do. If he comes in tomorrow and tells me I’m a punter, heck I’m going to try to be a great punter. If he tells me to be a guard, tackle, safety, heck, that's what am I going to do.

"So it’s really just about what the coaches ask me to do, whatever void they need and they want me to fill, that’s what I’m here for."

Kelce, one of the best centers in football, is known for his athleticism while Dickerson projects as a more power-based player. The veteran, though, sees both traits in the rookie.

"Obviously, Landon’s a big kid, but don’t sleep on his athleticism," Kelce said. "He can move very well. You see it in the weight room numbers, you see it out on the field. This was his first day back in pads, but he’s been out there running and doing things getting ready to play.

"He’s got some very good tools. Obviously, he’s picked that high for a reason. A very strong kid, very powerful kid, and like I said, a good athlete. He’s also really smart. All of those things usually translate into a pretty good offensive lineman. 

"I think he can do whatever the team needs him to do regardless of the position he’s at, whether it’s center or guard. He has enough of everything that he can do it all."

Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson also noted Dickerson's intelligence as a player.

"He’s super intelligent," said Johnson. "You can tell he played a lot of high-level football at Alabama, so he’s not really slacking there. I think he’s eager to get back on the field … He’s super big, super strong, and ... he’s a character. Hopefully, he’ll let me borrow some of his overalls if I need them."

Dickerson understands his own body after going through a number of somewhat serious injuries at both Florida State and Alabama and noted that his feedback was valued by the medical and training staff. In the end, though, the experts are making the decisions.

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Modern ACL rehabs are typically placed at about nine months but Dickerson's large frame could extend that a bit in order to allow the graft to fully heal.

"I trust the team doctors here," he said. "I trust the athletic training staff and the coaches. [Activating him off NFI] was the decision they wanted to come to.

"It’s my job to come in every day, get healthy, work out, be in the best possible football shape that I can possibly be in. So if they felt comfortable with it, I’ve been trying to do my job, stay healthy, stay on top of things and I felt comfortable with that decision, too."

And that decision has Dickerson one step closer to finally blocking for Jalen Hurts.

The two players never crossed paths at Alabama with Dickerson at FSU while Hurts was in Tuscaloosa and the latter moving to Oklahoma when Dickerson arrived at Alabama.

"Great dude, great guy, great teammate," Dickerson said of Hurts. "You can’t say enough good things about him. We didn’t play together at Alabama, but we all came from that culture. He knows what it’s like, I know what it’s like.

"Really, for us, it’s about coming in every day and working, trying to be the best you can be. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people like that, that’s when great things happen. That’s what everybody in this building does."

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagle Maven 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 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.