Old warhorses, William Thomas and Jon Runyan, showed no signs of age on the outside last season as the Eagles allowed just 28 sacks, their fewest in more than a quarter-century. The two are back this season, forming one of the stronger tackle combinations around. Runyan is a guy who was unsure the Eagles would want him after the 2005 season, but he returned and the Eagles are glad that he did. Pro Bowler Shaun Andrews has emerged as an offensive leader and was used frequently to blow open holes for Brian Westbrook on the right side of the line. Andrews and Runyan developed a strong routine and looked like they had been working together for an eternity.
It was just about this time last year when center Jamaal Jackson emerged as a potential starter for the Eagles. He beat out veteran Hank Fraley to win the job after getting playing time the previous season when Fraley was out with an injury.
At the other guard spot, Todd Herremans is young, but is likely going to be playing in a Pro Bowl or two before his career is over.
As for that young depth, Winston Justice is looking to steal a spot and would likely be written into the top of many other depth charts across the NFL. Tackle Pat McCoy and center Nick Cole are gaining more and more experience and wouldn’t be overwhelmed if they were needed to step into the lineup to cover an injury.
Perhaps the most eye-opening play so far in camp, as far as the offensive line is concerned, is Max Jean-Gilles. The third year guard isn’t afraid to get in the face of even his teammates and battled Trent Cole in a shoving match in practice on Thursday. The two calmed down and went on without any further incidents, but it showed just how fiercely some of the younger players are battling early in camp.
The bottom line is that the Eagles have one of the best blocking units in the NFC and possibly, in the entire NFL. The Eagles first team offense ran the ball four out of their first five plays in a controlled scrimmage on Thursday and there is no doubt that they have the players to handle a more balanced attack than they’ve ran in the past, which is exactly what the Eagles are pledging to do, having learned a lesson from the success of their ground game last season.