Beware the 'gasser' drills

Eric Moncur (left) and Dallas Reynolds battle during line drills. Both of the Eagles' lines are under scrutiny in training camp.
Eric Moncur (left) and Dallas Reynolds battle during line drills. Both of the Eagles' lines are under scrutiny in training camp.
Posted: July 29, 2010

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Eagles' offensive line hasn't plummeted to the depths reached during last year's injury filled training camp.

Of course, only two starting offensive linemen are in camp and both - center Jamaal Jackson and guard Todd Herremans - are only here early to continue their recovery from injuries.

The true test of fitness will come Friday morning when coach Andy Reid puts his behemoths through a series of "half-gassers" - sprints from one sideline to the other and back - and other stamina tests during a closed practice session.

A year ago, starting tackles Shawn Andrews and Jason Peters were unable to complete 16 half-gassers. The Eagles' bookends aggravated injuries - Andrews (back) and Peters (quadriceps) - setting off a downward spiral that culminated with Jackson's season-ending knee ligament tear in December.

There's a rumor circulating among the linemen already in camp - second-year types and rookies - that Reid will scrap the half-gassers as he apparently inflicted the drill on the team during the spring. Camp is also a week longer this year, so maybe Reid won't feel the need for extra running drills.

He also may want to avoid the gassers with two-fifths of the offensive line already unable to practice, and guard Stacy Andrews still an unknown. Reid has tried to quell any uneasiness, especially concerning Andrews, who hardly played last season as he returned from knee surgery.

"I'm pretty comfortable with Stacy right now," Reid said after Wednesday morning's practice. "I think he'll be fine. I think he's healthy and strong and understands what we're asking."

The Eagles signed Andrews as a free-agent complement to younger brother, Shawn, during the 2009 off-season, but the anticipated right guard-right tackle combo never materialized. Shawn never played a down of football after his back flared up and Stacy went from starter to part-timer to inactive.

"It was a matter of sustaining it week-in and week-out, [and] I didn't think he had that," Reid said. "I thought he would get himself up, and then he would get into trouble, and then we would back off a little bit, and he would get himself down. It wasn't until the off-season when he got his full strength and everything back."

Even if Andrews is back to the form he showed in Cincinnati, where he once was given the franchise tag, there is still cause for concern about Herremans and Jackson. The soreness in Herremans' left foot is probably more of a concern because it is an unknown. He fractured the foot in camp last summer, needed surgery and missed the first five games of the season.

"I just want to slow this thing down and make sure we bring him back gradually and we don't do something to affect the foot," Reid said. "We've seen plenty of that with basketball players. They rush back in there and end up with career-threatening injuries."

Reid didn't mention names, but Yao Ming came immediately to mind.

Jackson, Reid conceded, is unlikely to return in time for the season opener. Recovery from anterior cruciate ligament tears is unpredictable and Jackson just recently turned 30.

The problems on the interior offensive line call into question the Eagles' off-season. They did not sign, trade for or draft a single offensive lineman. In truth, the free-agent and draft fields were thin, so the Eagles looked to their veteran backups and players on the developmental squad.

"It made me realize they have a lot of confidence in me [to] step up," said Fenuki Tupou, a second-year guard/tackle who spent last season on injured reserve. "I took that as I'm going work a little bit harder, study a little bit harder and make sure I don't mess up when I have the opportunity to shine."


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane

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