Aug 292011
Eagles head coach Andy Reid

Reid says no o-line starters will play Thursday (photo: SRA Moses Ross)

On Thursday night the Eagles will take on the New York Jets in the final preseason game of the year.  This game is really just an exercise for the last guys on the roster bubble to make an impression, either in hopes of making the team or more likely to generate some solid film to show other teams after getting cut.

It’s pretty much accepted that not many starters, if any, will play, and usually that’s a good thing.  By this time the starting unit and the top reserves are pretty much as ready as they’ll ever be, with the risk of injury outweighing the need for further in-game scrimmaging.

That’s all fine and normal, but the starting offensive line is anything but right now.  In fact, as configured the current group of starters have never even played together in a game.  While each of them have seen game action this preseason, not once have Jason Peters (left tackle), Evan Mathis (left guard), Jason Kelce (center), Danny Watkins (right guard), and Todd Herremans (right tackle) lined up as a unit in a game situation.  Herremans hasn’t played tackle at all since college.

So when Andy Reid implied on WIP today that the starting line wouldn’t be playing Thursday night, you have to think that he’s either yanking the retiring Howard Eskin around, or Reid has lost his mind.

Obviously injuries are a worrisome thought, but it has to be an even bigger concern that this group has had zero chance to gel.  A common refrain around the league, and it’s something Reid and other Eagles coaches have said as well, is that continuity on the offensive line is huge. 

Part of being a successful blocking unit is knowing your line calls while having a feel for where the guy next to you is going to be on a given play.  It’s mostly study and technique, but it’s also more than for that.  It’s part instincts, part feel, part pure football.  An offensive line is like the links of a steel chain, each part contributing a different but connected piece to a strong whole.  If one piece gets dis-jointed and pulled the wrong way, the whole thing breaks.  When that analogy is transferred back to the football field, it’s usually the quarterback’s body parts that are breaking.

To not have them see any game time together, even if it’s against the other team’s backups and/or srubs, seems maddeningly short-sighted.  Perhaps Reid is just being overly cautious due to injury concerns, especially considering that’s what has helped contribute to this radical new lineup in the first place, but that shouldn’t prevent him from preparing his team to play to the best of their collective ability.  I’d steal an Eskin line here and say if you’re scared get a dog, but I’d rather Reid not do that while Vick’s on the team… but I digress.

Ultimately, the overall success of the offense is first and foremost carried on the shoulders of the big men up front, and asking them to take the field as a collective virgin come September 11 seems as bad an idea as not bringing protection to prom night.

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