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Meet the Meat.

By Ben Baney

Football, with all the advancements in film sessions, coaching, practice habits and so on and so forth, will still ultimately come down to two things. Blocking, and Tackling. Despite this, the blockers and tacklers, those who ultimately determine the fate of the team are the least recognized part of the team because that part of the game doesn’t catch the eye nearly. They are the meat of the football team and control more than any other part of the game who wins and who loses. These are the guys that will be mostly responsible on every play for the blocking and tackling of key running plays, and pass rushes. Yes, the skill guys will get the big stats, but these guys get the W’s. With that in mind, lets meet the meat.

Left Tackle: Jason Peters

I have not seen Peters play. To be honest I hadn’t heard of the guy as Philadelphia hasn’t played Buffalo in what seems like forever and Buffalo hasn’t been a major contender in a long time. That said, from what I’ve heard he has played like a stud. What I worry about now is that he got his payday. He was an undrafted free agent when he came into the league and more than likely he has played with that chip on his shoulder his entire NFL career. There have been cases like this before, in all of sports where once you feel like you get that recognition, you can become complacent. He will be a huge part of protecting McNabb’s blindside against some tenacious pass rushes that we will see from the Giants and Cowboys. If he plays as he did in Buffalo, then this position should be a strength.

Left Guard: Todd Herremans

Herremans has been a very solid player. As an interior lineman he’s less responsible for the one on one rush and will be counted on more for pulling on certain run plays such as traps as well as screens. While I feel he is solid and have nothing but good things to say about him, he is not to this point an elite player. He may have trouble with dominant defensive tackles and cannot get movement on them. Remember last year against the Vikings? He was routinely beat by Kevin and Pat Williams. Now with Albert Haynesworth in Washington he will need to continue his solid steady play and not breakdown.

Center: Jamaal Jackson

I’m not sure quite what to make of Jamaal. And perhaps that is probably the worst thing to say about an offensive lineman that has been a starter for the past few years. He’s been pretty durable but I’ve never been nearly as comfortable with him as I had been with Hank Fraley.

Right Guard: Stacy Andrews

I like the addition of Stacy Andrews for two big reasons. I think he’s hungry, and he’s in such a better situation than where he was. After 5 years with the Bengals he has come to Philadelphia who is once again a contender for the playoffs and good health permitting a chance at a Super Bowl. He’s also getting to play right by his brother Shawn. Now the reason I mention the latter as being important is that siblings have by nature, a certain competitive edge. I think this will push both of them to new heights in their careers. Andrews is a huge, huge human being at 6’7 and 342 pounds, and I feel that his size will help the Eagles small shifty backs in Westbrook and McCoy.

Right Tackle: Shawn Andrews

Shawn Andrews has been a tremendous pickup since he was drafted. With the exception of some occasional nagging injury issues he’s been an elite player. He’s exceeded my expectations and has continued to develop as an all-pro lineman.

Offensive Line Depth.

This is by far the most important part of the offensive line. It is so rare that an offensive line will stay healthy through out the whole season. The backups must not only be talented but have enough moxy to perform in critical situations and against top level talent on game day. In Nick Cole and Winston Justice the Eagles have two players that are proven and talented. Nick Cole proved his worth last year, as he started the last 8 games in place of Max Jean-Gilles and performed very well with the line not having a significant drop off. Justice, a former physical force at USC has been used to the lights and attention. He’s been behind All-Pros during his tenure with the Eagles but I would not be surprised at all if one goes down that Justice could become a fixture on either Tackle position. The line behind the line is competitive and fierce.

Overall this should be an extremely strong point for this team. Typically with such a strong offensive line group run plays would be called more often, but that has not been Andy Reid’s philosophy. However the line is absolutely critical in the passing game too. If McNabb can afford five step drop plays the speed at wide out may be able to absolutely dismantle teams, and in turn set up the run game. Football is one of the most team oriented sports and despite the Eagles having what projects out to a very, very good offensive line, it will not guarantee absolute success. But it sure puts the Eagles ahead of the curve.

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