2008 Projected Starters:
ALY (Adjusted Line
Yards): It is an alternate measure for yards per carry developed by Football Outsiders
that takes into account various factors including down, distance, situation and opponent.
The tackle position which was a strength for the Eagles for so many years is slowly becoming weaker. Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan should return as the starters for the 8th consecutive season. Thomas is a very big and strong lineman at 67" and 335 lbs who has been pretty durable since being drafted by the Eagles in 1998. His great strength makes him an excellent run blocker but he has never been very quick and it is has become more obvious now that he is 33 years old. The Eagles were one of the best in the NFL when running to the left side and Thomas was a big reason for that success. Jon Runyan is very similar to Thomas; he is durable and is also very big at 67 and 330 lbs. Runyan has not missed a game in 11 NFL seasons but played through injuries for most of the 2007 season. He is a decent blocker who, like Thomas, has lost a step and is starting to struggle in pass protection against speedy defensive ends. The Eagles drafted Winston Justice in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, a player that many saw as the left tackle of the future for the Eagles. Justice was however humiliated by Osi Umenyiora in his first and only NFL start in 2007. It is unfair to evaluate Justice based on that performance alone but it was obvious that he lacked quickness. He is still a very solid blocker and played much better when he replaced Runyan in the final game of the 2007 season against the Bills. Justice should be a solid player as he gains experience but he is likely a much better fit at right tackle, the position he played at USC. The Eagles added Mike McGlynn in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. McGlynn is a strong lineman with excellent awareness and good work ethic but who struggles against speedy rushers. He played right tackle in college but is likely a better fit at guard in the NFL so it remains to be seen how the Eagles will use him.
At guard, the Eagles have a much younger duo in Todd Herremans and Shawn Andrews. Herremans should be the starting left guard for the Eagles for a third consecutive season. He had a very difficult season in 2007 mainly due to a knee injury that bothered him throughout the year. Herremans underwent surgery during the teams bye week and did not miss a single start but it was obvious that he was not at full strength. There is no doubt that Herremans will have to be better in 2008 if he wants to keep his starting job but if he is healthy, there is no reason why he should not be as solid as he was in 2006. On the other side is Shawn Andrews who has been named to two straight Pro Bowls after only four seasons in the NFL. He had a disappointing season in 2007 because of a nagging ankle injury but is still one of the top five guards in the NFL. Andrews is both strong and athletic at 64 and 335 lbs and an asset for this line both in run blocking and pass protection. His main quality is his athleticism which allows him to pull to the outside on screen plays and he makes Westbrook even more dangerous. Max Jean-Gilles has been a backup guard since being drafted in the fourth round in 2006 but could very well win the starting left guard position in camp. He is a very powerful blocker at 63 and 360 lbs with excellent work ethic and he will continue to improve as he gains experience. If he does not win the job over Herremans this year, he could get more playing time next year as either Herremans or Andrews could move to tackle. The Eagles selected Mike Gibson in the sixth round of the 2008 draft to provide depth and also have former fifth round pick Scott Young on the roster but both are likely career backups.
The Eagles will start Jamaal Jackson at center for the third consecutive season. Jackson who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003 was rewarded with a seven-year deal in 2006. He had a difficult season in 2007 mainly because of the number of penalties called against him. He is very big for a center at 64 and 330 lbs which can cause him trouble at times in pass blocking but it allows him to open up big holes in the running game. Nick Cole is the backup center and also has the ability to play guard. He is another very big lineman who is a solid run blocker but will struggle in pass protection. Cole is likely a career backup but is still very useful because of his ability to play on special teams.
August 20, 2008 - Shawn Andrews is back in camp and has said that he was suffering from depression. it is very goodnews that he is back and he should be ready for the opener.