Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland might be the best in the league at his job. That much has been clear over the last few seasons as the Eagles offensive line has been one of the best in the league consistently despite numerous injuries.
So when it came time for the Eagles to decide how they were going to replace the injured Brandon Brooks, it seems Stoutland was very confident in two things.
“Brandon Brooks is the best player at that position in the entire league in my opinion,” Stoutland said Friday. “It is a tremendous loss for us. That is the truth. We all know that.”
The second? Jason Peters will be more than just fine at right guard.
“I absolutely think,” Stoutland said, “he has the critical factors to be productive at the position.”
Speaking to the media for the first time since the Eagles signed Peters, Stoutland didn’t seem worried at all about how the process of turning their All-Pro left tackle into their new starting guard would go.
“No. 1, I believe everybody in the o-line meeting room — and probably a lot of other players around here — but most importantly the players on the o-line, they look at Jason Peters like ‘this guy can do anything.’ I think that this is going to be great for Jason Peters,” Stoutland said. “It is just another challenge for him. I think that he has had to play the toughest position in the o-line, maybe in the whole offense, for a lot of years playing left tackle. Blind side, being out there on his own. Man on an island, one-on-one blocking all day. So that is a hard job. I think that this can really help us. He knows me, he knows how I coach, he knows the terminology. You have to know what the guard is doing on every play, you play next to him, you were the tackle. So with all these things being said, I think he brings a lot of value to the organization, to our offense. For this reasons, I think this is absolutely the best move.”
As confident as Stoutland is, he also acknowledged there would be some adjustments for Peters.
“The biggest adjustment to me is he is not going to have to block a guy in giant space. Players going to be right in front of him. To me that is the biggest adjustment. The players that he is going to be blocking are going to be right up on him. As opposed to four-or-five yards outside with all of that space,” Stoutland said. “Maybe surfacing some of the blocks with the run fits, being on the right side. I think that JP he embraces these things. He likes a new challenge. A couple years ago, three-or-four years ago, he was snapping out there in a walking session. I asked him what he was doing, he said he could play center…I don’t think he was joking either. I think that in his mind, it is something that is going to be new, going to be challenging.”
The decision to bring back Peters, although it comes with some risk, does make sense considering their need for both a right guard and a backup offensive tackle. In doing so, however, the Eagles bypassed the option to start Matt Pryor at right guard, a position he has spent two years learning and preparing to play.
With Peters now the starter, it seems Pryor will be taking on the role left open by the departure of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, the Eagles’ top backup offensive linemen over the last three years.
“Matt is extremely valuable because he can play a lot of positions,” Stoutland said. "When you put on these installation tapes, like in the Jacksonville game in the preseason last year, he is playing tackle. In the Seattle game he is playing right guard. So he is playing a lot of positions. To have that swing value to me is extremely important. I look at his as though he is a starter, as I did Vaitai last year. I looked at him as though he was a starter.”
So will the Eagles plan of starting Peters at right guard and making Pryor the new Vaitai work?
Stoutland certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt in his assessment that it will. That being said, it is noteworthy that after listening to both the offensive line coach and Doug Pederson speak this week, how little concern the Eagles have that it might not. Clearly the duo wouldn’t come out and say they are worried, but it seems the Eagles expect for Peters to not only be a competent starting right guard, but a high-level one. That is possible, but with no OTAs or minicamp, and an abbreviated training camp, it would be surprising if there weren’t some growing pains for Peters at the position.
The good news is that the Eagles are also confident that Pryor can step in if need be. If Pryor truly can become the new Vaitai for the Eagle that would be a major boost to their offensive line room, as Vaitai was a critical part of the line’s success over the last few years.
With training camp practices about two weeks away, we will soon get to see on the field if the Eagles’ confidence in Peters will end up working out.