Jeff Stoutland didn’t try to hide it.
The Eagles don’t know who their starting left tackle is going to be for the 2021 season. And when asked about the competition, Stoutland made it very clear.
“Oh there’s definitely one,” the veteran offensive line coach said.
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“And I think that anytime there is competition like that and it’s that close, it brings the best out of both players. Both players have to be on every day, all day because it’s a competition. Whoever’s the most productive and whoever does the best, whoever has the best value going into the season, will be the starter.”
In fact, the competition between Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard is already underway. The two rotated with the first team at left tackle throughout the spring and will likely continue to do so when training camp begins in late July.
Stoutland on Wednesday said neither player is ahead in the race.
“They’re going to both be given an opportunity,” Stoutland said.
Ultimately, Stoutland said it’ll be up to head coach Nick Sirianni to pick the winner of the competition but he’ll have input. And you can bet Sirianni will listen very closely to recommendation coming from the most veteran coach on his staff and one of the most respected offensive line coaches in the league.
Although the Eagles weren’t in helmets or pads (which meant they were basically running around in shorts) this spring, Stoutland was impressed by his four known starters: left guard Isaac Seumalo, center Jason Kelce, right guard Brandon Brooks, right tackle Lane Johnson.
“Really impressive. I don’t usually say stuff like that, you guys know me,” Stoutland said.
With that in mind, Stoutland has one major goal in mind for whichever player wins the left tackle competition.
“I expect that player to fit right in with the rest of those players, be accountable to all the things that are going on,” he said. “Because when you watch the synchronization, you watch how synchronized the group is, I want that player to be just like that.”
Speaking to reporters last week, both Mailata and Dillard seemed excited about the competition between them. They’re friends and even have neighboring locker stalls at the NovaCare Complex but they both want the same job. And there’s a chance that whoever wins it won’t just be the left tackle in 2021, but will win the job in the long-term too.
On one hand, the Eagles drafted Dillard in the first round to be their left tackle to replace Jason Peters. He had some ups and downs as a rookie but came back last offseason with added strength and the expectation was for him to be their starter until he tore his biceps in training camp. We still haven’t seen Dillard at his best.
And then there’s Mailata, who wasn’t even the first or second choice to replace Dillard last year. But once the mammoth Australian got into that left tackle spot, he played very well. Well enough to think that he might be the future of the position. If Mailata wasn’t that good last year, then there’s no competition to speak of.
You could understand why either player might have an edge. Mailata has played at a higher level during his time on the field. But Dillard was a first-round pick and might not offer the same versatility as a backup.
The Eagles are off for the next month-plus before training camp opens and Stoutland said his biggest piece of advice for players was to make sure they come back in great shape because they will allow them to maximize their potential during the summer heat.
“I think that’s very important for both those players, to walk in the door in the greatest shape (of their lives),” Stoutland said.
In a position battle this close, every little detail matters. It’ll be fun to watch it play out.
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