Eagles Offensive Line Nearly Flawless Against Commanders
NFL Week 4 - The Philadelphia Eagles clobbered the Washington Commanders last Sunday to move to 3-0 on the season. Some might be surprised by the Eagles' fast start—no one who read Football Outsiders Almanac 2022, but some others might. The Eagles have absolutely looked like one of the best teams in the league through three weeks.
A lot of praise has gone to the quarterback Jalen Hurts and the receiving corps led by A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith—and deservedly so, they have been great. But the offensive line has been just as good as Philadelphia's skill talent. The offense has really been clicking on all cylinders.
This is just tremendous work by the five guys up front for Philly. They're going empty protection and the Commanders are bringing five, so everyone up front has to be on the same page. The left side of the line has the more difficult job as they are passing off a stunt, but they make it look easy. Look at how left tackle Jordan Mailata is moving around the field. Good hard kick-step outside, fluid redirect when he sees the furthest rusher dropping, then picks up the looper (Cole Holcomb, 55) coming around outside and delivers a good punch with his hands. Mailata is gliding out there.
Lane Johnson at the other tackle (blocking Darrick Forrest, 22) also looks incredibly smooth in his pass set. He looked so quick but in control in the passing game all day. I had high hopes for watching him because of his reputation, and he certainly lived up to that hype in this one. Just a high-level pro.
Really, everyone here is very good. If you want to see how big plays happen in the passing game, this is it. When the defense sends five against an empty set and your offensive line absolutely stonewalls them, there are going to be open receivers down the field.
This is another nice blitz pickup. I know the Commanders get a bit of pressure on Hurts here, but they're also bringing one more than the Eagles can block with a Cover-0 blitz. So there was always going to be pressure. The free rusher (Holcomb, 55) is the guy that adds on late once he sees the running back blocking and that's all you can ask from an offensive line against this type of pressure.
Johnson is again a standout here. Great initial set, stays in control as he engages with his hands, and finally just sits down and stops the rusher (Shaka Toney, 58) in his tracks. Mailata is also solid though he gets snatched down late.
The only guy up front for Philly that gets beat a little quicker than you want is right guard Isaac Seumalo, and that was the trend for most of the game. I don't think Seumalo played poorly or anything, but he probably had the weakest game of a front five that played very well in general. Here he has a tough job though; he has to block a wide 3-technique (Daron Payne, 94) who stunts all the way across the ball with no help, and he gives up late pressure.
This time it's not a blitz, but I once again wanted to highlight both tackles. We'll start with Mailata (68), who has to slide down on a hard inside counter move. What surprises and impresses me is the fluidity of the movement for someone who weighs 365 pounds. The part I'm not surprised about is how strong his hands look. He's engaging the defensive end away from his frame, reaching across his body, and you can still see him jolt the rusher and keep him from penetrating up the field. That takes a lot of natural grown-man strength.
Johnson (65) had a few reps where it felt like he might get pushed too far into the pocket on a bull rush, but he always seemed to anchor just when he needed to. He doesn't get much of a punch here, which is a big part of why he gives ground initially, but look at him arch that back and lock his hips out to bow up and stop the rush in time for Hurts to deliver the deep throw.
Left guard Landon Dickerson (69) also does a nice job here, but I actually want to highlight him on a different play.
Again, this is great protection from everyone up front for the Eagles, but let's start with Dickerson. It all starts with how he comes down the line of scrimmage square even though he has to get nose-to-nose with a shaded nose tackle (Jonathan Allen, 93) aligned inside. He doesn't turn and run, he slides down with his shoulders parallel to the line. That allows him to redirect when the defender tries to cross his face. Look at his wide base as he shuffles to his outside with the defender. He also has that good powerful arch posture in his back like Johnson did on the last GIF so he can play with some strain and power. Outstanding rep of pass protection.
The tackles once again are great here, and I can't overstate how well I thought Philadelphia pass protected last week. Like I said at the top, the Eagles skill players all made plays, but the offensive line playing the way they did was just as big as anything Hurts and his receivers did.
Here the big guys are once again setting the stage for the skill guys to make a play. This is a well-designed tight end screen. The Eagles show some motion, then fake the dart run to the right, pulling the tackle, and drop it off to the tight end (Dallas Goedert) late. It's well designed, giving the defense plenty of moving parts to sort through, and just as well executed.
The guy to watch is center Jason Kelce. Because the left guard gets caught up with a bull-rushing defensive tackle (Allen, 93), Kelce is the first one out in the screen. That means he's responsible for kicking out the force defender. Because the play is so well designed, though, no one for Washington gets outside the tackle box, so Kelce gets his eyes back inside and picks up the first linebacker (Davis, 52) to recognize the screen. Right guard Seumalo is second out and does a nice job of catching that second linebacker (Holcomb, 55) and getting just enough of him to keep him from making a tackle.
Of course, Goedert still has to make the safety miss for it to be a touchdown instead of a 12-yard gain. Goedert does, and he's another example of the Eagles skill guys making plays when the offensive line sets them up. The end result was a picture-perfect screen play that ended in the end zone.