In the last few days, there have been various reports that center Jamaal Jackson may be the Eagles starter come opening day. He practiced with the first team offense on Monday and has not dealt with any reported problems with his surgically repaired knee that kept him out for the end of last season.
Having Jackson back as the starting center is not only a positive, it is a necessity. With Nick Cole continuing to nurse an ankle injury, the Eagles are currently relying on third-year offensive lineman Mike McGlynn to take snaps. McGlynn has held his own for the past three games as the starter, but he is not the long term answer for the Eagles. Jackson proved at the beginning of last season that he is capable of being a Pro-Bowl caliber center; however his knee is a big concern moving forward.
With Jackson being a staple player at center, the Eagles can focus more on the rest of the offensive line. His health can act as a stepping stone and enable the first team to practice as a unit again. Like last season, the Eagles have yet to practice or play a preseason game with the first-team offensive line, which didn’t go over so well for all of 2009. Similar to 2009, the biggest question mark heading into the regular season is the offensive line. They have five prominent starters in Jackson, Jason Peters, Stacy Andrews, Todd Herremans and Winston Justice, however they just can’t seem to stay healthy and get reps together.
Herremans, who has battled a left foot problem, sprained his ankle during Monday’s practice. Stacy Andrews is struggling in practice and has been splitting time with Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole who returned to practice after his ankle injury. In the absence of his brother, Andrews has also been forced to switch from tackle to guard, which has not been very smooth.
Jason Peters is not dealing with any injuries, but is not there mentally. He led the team in penalties last season and has already committed a couple in preseason. He is a three-time Pro-bowler yet is playing much like a rookie. The scariest part of the Eagles offensive line is that their most consistent player is probably Winston Justice. I never thought I would be saying that after the way he started his career watching Osi Umenyiora run past him six times.
Another year and the offensive line still has a lot to prove. The only difference is that the 2010 Eagles team has a number of other questions lingering above the heads of the players and coaches: how well will Kevin Kolb fare? Are the Eagles too young at offense? Can Nate Allen and Brandon Graham be all the Eagles were hoping for? Can the defense improve despite its age and inexperience? Just add the offensive line to a long list of questions and you have what will be the Eagles season. However, the offensive line is a question that needs to be answered first if the Eagles offense wants to get anything done this year.