This time last season, Isaac Seumalo was watching most of the Eagles’ games from the bench.
Even though the 2016 third-round pick was handed the starting left guard job before training camp, it took just two games before the Eagles realized he was overmatched. He was benched for Week 3 last year and spent the rest of the Super Bowl season and the beginning of this season as a backup.
But two weeks ago, Seumalo took back his starting left guard spot and has played fairly well since then. He’s hoping to hang on to the job this time around.
On Wednesday, he called last year’s benching “one of the best things that could have happened.”
“It happened and I’m thankful for it and it kind of changed my mentality of how I play,” Seumalo said. “It kind of set me on the path of where I am today.
How did last year’s benching change his mentality?
“Having a lot more fun and playing a lot looser and letting the game come to me,” said Seumalo, speaking for the first time publicly since taking back the starting job. “Really, just taking it one play at a time. I know it’s really cheesy and corny, but, man, you really cannot focus on what’s already happened, you can’t focus on what’s about to happen. You gotta be in the moment.”
Seumalo, 24, explained that last season he was letting the pressure and little mistakes bog him down. Instead of immediately forgetting a mistake, he was allowing himself to think about it even after the play was over. He was losing focus and it showed up on the field.
One of the biggest realizations he had was that there is always time to correct mistakes in the days after the game. While he’s still on the field, he needs to move on to the next play.
“Game day’s not a time to think,” he said.
Aside from the mental aspect of the game, Seumalo also realized he needed to get bigger and stronger if he wanted to play offensive guard in the NFL. It’s the part of his improvement that offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has lauded the most.
This offseason, Seumalo put on about 20 pounds, going from around 300 all the way up to 320. And it wasn’t easy.
“If you’re working out a ton, you have to eat a ton,” he said.
That meant more meals. That meant bigger meals. That meant eating in the morning, after workouts and before bed, all to keep up with how many calories he was losing when he worked out.
In order for Seumalo to earn his starting job, someone had to lose it first. That happened when the Eagles benched Stefen Wisniewski. After he was benched, Wiz said he thought he was playing well and told reporters he had “some theories” as to why he was benched. Seumalo declined to comment about that but did say Wiz is a good teammate and the two are friends.
The Eagles have always valued Seumalo’s versatility. He can play all five spots on the offensive line and even swung out to right tackle during last Thursday’s game. He thinks his time learning the center position in the offense this offseason really helped him better understand every position on the offensive line.
Getting reps as the second-team center simply wouldn’t have happened if Seumalo was still the starter at left guard coming out of last year.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe getting benched was the best thing to happen to him.
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