Protecting Wentz

The Eagles drafted the future of the franchise last night after trading up to pick number 2 to select Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. They gave up alot of draft capital in order to do so. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have staked their jobs to his performance. So now it’s about protecting their investment. They have brought in a bevy of QB coaches to help him develop. They plan on being patient with him. There is an old adage that a good Tight End is a the best friend of a young QB. The Eagles have three young Wide Recievers and solid depth at the position.

The best way for the Eagles to protect their new Quarterback is to invest in the offensive line. The first reason is obvious, plenty of young signal callers have taken large amounts of punishment playing behind poor offensive lines. This led to developing bad habits: footwork breaks down, they start to see ghosts, they stop seeing the whole field and focusing on not getting hit. Additionally they can just outright get hurt.

The second reason Offensive Line is crucial for a young QB is being able to establish a strong run game. Ideally you don’t want a QB to have to go out and take fifty 7-step drops to try to win a shootout.

The Current State of the Eagles Offensive Line

The Eagles OL in 2015 was not good. They gave up too much pressure and struggled to run the ball. This was compounded by a constantly rotating lineup with injuries taking a major toll. The good news is that the new scheme will lighten some of the burden. Play calling will be more diverse. The Tackles will get more help from running backs and tight ends in pass protection. The run scheme will be a more balanced selection of gap scheme and zone scheme in contrast to the pure zone run during the Chip Kelly regime. They also went out and signed two new potential starters.

The presumed starting 5 looks something like:

Jason Peters – Stefen Wisniewski – Jason Kelce – Brandon Brooks – Lane Johnson

That’s a solid starting 5, but has alot of long term questions, and won’t be in anyone’s top 5 rankings of the position groups. Jason Peters is a potential Hall of Famer, but is 34, has been unable to stay healthy the last couple of years, and seems to have lost a step. Peters is expensive and unlikely to be on the roster past this season. Wisniewski is the presumptive starter at LG, and is a solid starter but is only here on a one year contract, and has not played Guard since his rookie year in Oakland. Jason Kelce is one of the most unique centers in the NFL. His athleticism and ability to play in space make him a weapon. He has been up and down the last couple of years but is still a solid starter and should bounce back in 2016. Brandon Brooks was brought in from a scheme in Houston that ran a combination of both zone and gap schemes, and should fit from that perspective. He’s a mountain of a man at 6’5 345lbs, and when he’s on, can move people against their will in the run game. Lane Johnson is the former #4 overall pick and signed a lucrative extension to stay with the Eagles in the off season. He is the future Left Tackle. He’s been good so far in his career but has yet to take the next step to becoming a great player.

The Reserves: Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly, and Andrew Gardener have all started for the Eagles during stretches of the last few seasons. They are all solid reserves. However the Eagles would certainly like to get younger and try to develop some young OL with higher upside.

The Deep Reserves: Josh Andrews was the backup Center last year. He can play some guard, but has a pretty limited ceiling and has never started. Brett Boyko was a UDFA who made the practice squad last year. If the Eagles do not bring in much help during the draft he could push Dennis Kelly to be the swing tackle. Barret Jones was a highly decorated OL coming out of Alabama, but has yet to start a game is JAG. The coaching staff seems to like Malcolm Bunche. He has a good profile. I worry about him though because he has been and underachiever with great tools his whole career. Both at Miami and UCLA he forced his way into the starting lineup only to be extremely underwhelming.

So the 4 things the Eagles could use, they won’t be able to get them all but this is my wishlist:

  1. A Tackle who can start this year when Peters inevitably gets hurt.
  2. A Guard to push Wisniewski for the starting LG job.
  3. A C/G to push Kelce and improve depth
  4. A swing tackle of the future

Offensive Line Prospects:

Here are some players who I think fit both the scheme, needs, and should still be available.

Joe Haeg, T, NDSU 6’6 304lbs

What better place to find a guy to protect Carson Wentz than the guy who has been doing it already? Haeg was a walk on in the same class as Wentz, started at Right Tackle for two seasons before kicking over to Left Tackle the last two. He reminds me alot of former Eagle Todd Herremans. Both are good technically, played at smaller schools, can play LT in a pinch and have T/G versatility. Haeg could compete at LG in 2016 and then kick out to RT in 2017.

 

Max Tuerk, C, USC, 6’5, 298lbs

What would happen if you took Jason Kelce’s movement ability, added in Lane Johnon’s frame and sprinkled in Jon Runyan’s desire to give a little extra after the whistle blew? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Max Tuerk. Tuerk was a 4 year starter at USC. He played just about every position while he was there. He’s got a rare combination of feet, size, and movement ability. He can probably play all 5 offensive line positions (short arms make LT iffy). If Tuerk hadn’t torn his ACL last fall I believe he would have gone in the later part of the first round. He could go anywhere from just outside the top 40 to the top of the fourth round, depending on how teams view his knee and positional future.

 

Connor McGovern, G, Mizzou, 6’4 306lbs

Connor McGovern is just the latest of really good Mizzou OL. Justin Britt and Mitch Morse were both 2nd round picks in 2014 and 2015. Morse just happened to become the starting Center and a homerun pick for Kansas City. His OC was some guy named Doug Pederson. McGovern is a 3 year starter having played RG, RT, and LT. He’s probably more of a guard than tackle in the NFL but in the right scheme could play some out on the edge. He’s technical and strong. High football IQ. He’s got a bit of piss and vinegar to him. When people say “you can find good guards in round 3” McGovern is who they are talking about.

 

Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State, 6’3, 298lbs

Westerman is a player I struggle with. He’s a good athlete, freak in the weightroom, and solid on the football field. He checks every box you want, yet I always finish watching his film confused. He’s good. He should be better. He’s like a 5 tool baseball player who hits .265 and 15 home runs. That’s good, but you’ll always kinda wish they would hit .290 and 30 dingers. Maybe NFL coaching will help him. He could just as likely make half a dozen pro bowls as be a guy who turns out like Wisniewski.

 

Alex Lewis, T, Nebraska, 6’6 314lbs

Lewis is a guy who started his career at Colorado. He arrived as a TE, but was moved to OL as a sophomore and started at LG and LT. Then things got weird. Lewis did 45 days in prison for a bar brawl where he put an Air Force Cadets head through a wall. He transferred to Nebraska and has started ever since, and things seemed to have settled downo off the field. On the field he has solid feet, and good size with long arms. He isn’t the most powerful guy but has enough. He reminds me alot of Michael Schofield. If his background checks out he is a good developmental T who could be the starting RT in 2015. Let’s just hope the judge was right in saying: “I have no doubt alcohol was a major factor here,” Butler said. “This was a classic example of too much alcohol, too much testosterone, bad result. I see it almost daily.”

Graham Glasgow, C, Michigan, 6’6, 307lbs

Glasgow is a very tall guy for an interior OL. But he plays with great pad level. He’s a powerful guy, with solid not good athletic ability. He has experience starting both at guard and center over the last three years. To me he profiles best as a G early in his career, he doesn’t sit in the seat well in pass pro and playing him at G should minimize these issues while he works on some range of motion and technical tweaks.  Needs to do a better job staying on his feet. He got much better as a football player after Harbaugh arrived. He went from a guy with DUI issues who was pretty average to a good interior OL, and Harbaugh mandated that he be roommates with his grandmother to keep him out of trouble. I love that.

Joe Thuney, G/C, NC State, 6’5, 304lbs

Another guy who has played absolutely everywhere. Made starts at RG, RT, C, and LT. Another guy with great technique, and a high football IQ. Academic All-American. Not the most powerful but wins with his brains. Profiles best as a backup G/C in the short term with a solid shot at becoming a starter down the line. Think of a rich mans Julian Vandervelde.

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