Up Front

Posted: September 14th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Skins won three Super Bowls for Joe Gibbs between 1982-1991. The Boys won three Super Bowls from 1992-1995. One thing that both of those groups had in common…dominant offensive lines.

The Eagles just won their first Super Bowl back in February and one of the keys to that game (and the whole season) was the play of the O-line. Nick Foles had time to throw. LeGarrette Blount had room to run. If the guys up front don’t control the line of scrimmage, all the highlight throws, great catches and incredible runs don’t happen.

Sheil Kapadia wrote a fantastic piece for The Athletic on OL coach Jeff Stoutland. You get plenty of football stories, but also find about the man. Stoutland is a great coach for plenty of technical reasons, but part of the secret is that he also really connects with his players.

The Eagles bring back all their starting O-linemen from last year and the key reserves. This is a deep, talented group that can dominate up front. They got off to a slow start against Atlanta, but took over the game in the 4th quarter, when things really mattered.

Stop and think about the linemen for a second.

Lane Johnson has developed into arguably the best OT in the entire league. Stoutland is the only OL coach he’s played for in the NFL.

Brandon Brooks had the best season of his career in 2017.

Jason Kelce arguably had the best season of his career in 2017.

Stefen Wisniewski had the best season of his career in 2017.

Jason Peters has been a dominant stud for multiple OL coaches, but the fact he’s playing at that level at age 237 (give or take) tells you he’s getting good coaching from Stoutland.

Big V played his butt off last year, especially in the playoffs.

Isaac Seumalo started slow this summer, but Stoutland kept working with him and Seumalo played really well in the final couple of preseason games.

Jordan Mailata took huge strides from Game 1 to Game 4. I’ve never seen a player come that far in one month.

Put simply, Jeff Stoutland can coach.

Dallas lost LT Tyron Smith last year and the line fell apart. The Eagles lost JP and the line continued to play at a high level. It isn’t just a matter of throwing a bunch of first round picks out on the field and letting them do their thing. Stoutland knows how to find the right five guys and he develops them.

The Eagles do a lot of creative things with their blockers. They use unbalanced lines, to the right and left. They use an extra OL as a TE in some jumbo sets. The Eagles do a lot of pulling to take advantage of Kelce’s freakish athleticism. The Eagles can also use double-teams to just overwhelm defenders and move them off the ball. Usually you see physical blockers or athletic ones, but not both.

The RPOs can be tough on linemen. They have to be disciplined not to go flying upfield. They have to be aggressive to sell run, but have to be prepared to pass block as well. After the initial second or two, they have to find the ball and then go block downfield.

The Eagles have a chance to be really good for the next several years. Doug Pederson looks like a great head coach. Carson Wentz is a great young QB. The defensive line is filled with special talent. Don’t overlook the importance of the O-line. Those guys are crucial to a team’s success.

Buddy Ryan built rosters full of freakishly good players. The one thing he struggled with was building a strong offensive line. They peaked in 1992, after Ryan’s firing, but even that group was hardly special. They were terrific run blockers and solid pass protectors, but they were not physically dominant.

Andy Reid loved having a strong O-line. He passed that onto Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman. They spend plenty of resources to build a strong group up front. They give Jeff Stoutland the resources he needs to build a special group. And Stoutland delivers.

Jeff Stoutland isn’t perfect. His continuing love for Chance Warmack proves that. But he is the best OL coach the Eagles have had in a long time, if not ever. He’s built a special line, one that can help this team win a lot of games in the coming years.

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