End of a Legendary Career in Philadelphia?
The Eagles currently have a potential first ballot Hall of Fame left tackle on their team in Jason Peters. Through his career, the bodyguard was the definition of domination at the blind side. The Birds had him throughout his prime, and he will be on this team until he retires. However, in recent years he has not been able to compete a season fully and it has even got to the point where he can’t complete an entire game. He is constantly coming out and going back in and that leaves Andre Dillard to fill in for a few plays here and there. This is absolutely hurting Dillard’s development into a potential pro bowl caliber tackle. I believe the Eagles need to make a hard decision and make a move at left tackle. I want to go over a few options they have to do this and figure out the best option for them now and in the future.
1. Declare Andre Dillard the starter the rest of the season
I believe that right now Dillard is the best option at left tackle. The Eagles traded up and took him for a reason. Instead of hindering his progression, the Eagles should let him loose and bench Peters. Make Peters more of a player-coach and have him help Dillard become as dominant as the bodyguard once was. Dillard has the pass blocking skills and is a very smart player, but he does have some skillsets and tactics that Peters perfected over his career. Letting Dillard learn from the best while playing seems to be the best option for this team this year and going forward for years to come.
The only downside to this plan is the chance that Dillard is not as good as we think he can be. Clearly there have been some issues this year with him going in and out of games trying to fill in. He struggled at times against better pass rushers and clearly has room for improvement. The Cowboys even made it a point to go right after him (although Lane Johnson struggled more than he did that game), and if other teams do so and he can’t handle it, Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense could be in a real bind. But I say leave him in and try to let him build some chemistry with Isaac Seumalo and the rest of the offensive line.
2. Declare Halapoulivaati Vaitai the starter the rest of the season
I know what you are thinking, “How can we put a guy in that has struggled in the past.” I will show a few points as to why this could work. In the 2017 season when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, Big V had to step up and start at left tackle once Peters went down for the season. Even though he did struggle at points, he played well enough when it mattered. He went up against the Everson Griffen all game in the NFC Championship Game in 2017 and completely made him a non-factor. He clearly has talent and showed that he can be a very competent player for the Eagles. He is familiar with this offense and now has played with Wentz for a few years. This all can go into him being a solid enough tackle.
My one big reservation with this move is that I don’t fully trust him as a player. Sure, when he played great that year it was easy to say he was the future. However, when he struggled he struggled hard. He constantly got called for holding calls, missed blocks, blew assignments multiple times, and didn’t do the most important job of blocking Wentz‘ blind side. Big V is a great player to have as a depth player in case someone goes down. I just don’t think that the Eagles would want to put all of their eggs in this basket, even with Peters teaching him.
3. Finding a trade partner for Jason Peters
This may be the more unpopular opinion, but I believe the Eagles could be better off grabbing a draft pick or two for Peters and just moving on from the future hall of famer. Yes, he is filled with knowledge, but with him on the roster, I don’t see Pederson keeping him on the bench when one of the younger guys play. He holds too much respect for Peters as a player, and that may be to a fault. If the Eagles were able to grab a 4th rounder for Peters in a trade with a team that needs a rental left tackle, I don’t think it would be the worst move they could make. The Eagles would lose out on the wealth of knowledge, but they would get a current and future upgrade at arguably the 2nd or 3rd most important position on the field. You could let either Dillard or Big V play and let the other be the backup and come in if the starter goes down. This plan could work on the level that the Eagles plan to be sellers at the trade deadline, and they want to add as much draft capital as possible.
I know that Peters hasn’t been the only issue, but his health has been an issue. In my opinion it is time to say goodbye to the legend and embrace the future (whether it's by moving Peters for a draft pick or letting him sit on the bench and virtually coach).