Bell thinks he can do well on Eagles' offensive line

Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Demetrius Bell (77) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Demetrius Bell (77) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Posted: May 25, 2012

Most of the Eagles questions this spring involve the defense. On offense, as we’ve written, the biggest issue is Michael Vick, health and turnovers.

There is one other significant offensive unknown, currently listed at 6-5, 311. Demetress Bell talked to reporters Wednesday after his first 2 days lining up as the left tackle, next to Evan Mathis. Bell might have been the best free agent still on the market when Jason Peters tore his Achilles’ (the first time, in March), but that hardly makes him Peters, who was selected for the last five Pro Bowls, who might have been the best left tackle in football in 2011. Peters was a great fit for Howard Mudd’s aggressive, athletic system; his second-level blocking had a lot to do with LeSean McCoy’s 1,309-yard, Pro Bowl year.

“I know what they brought me here to do,” Bell said. “He is a five-time Pro Bowler, but I don’t think I’ll have a problem filling those shoes.”

Center Jason Kelce acknowledged the obvious.

“Demetress isn’t the same player as Jason; Jason’s kind of a one-of-a-kind tackle, but Demetress has a very large skill set,” Kelce said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do here, and Howard certainly thinks he’s going to be very good. He’s fit in very well for being so new to the offense.

“I don’t know who’s more athletic between him and Jason, but Demetress is still a very fast, very athletic tackle. He can get out into space. I still think we can call the same plays. I don’t think we’re hindered by the [differences]. We can still have the same game plan.”

It’s hard for reporters to know what Mudd thinks, since the 70-year-old offensive line coach isn’t around for OTAs, and was not around for rookie camp. Eagles coach Andy Reid lured Mudd out of retirement last year, and Mudd ended up getting hip replacement surgery during the bye week. It was clear that the demands of the job wore on him.

“He’s taking some time off. He was thinking about retiring [again, as last season wound down], and one of the things he worked out was that he was going to take a little bit more time off in the offseason to be with his family,” Kelce said, when asked about Mudd’s absence. “He said he’ll be back for the last minicamp.”

Isn’t it a bit weird not having Mudd around while everybody gets situated?

“It is weird,” Kelce said. “The reason it’s weird is that Howard’s such a notable guy in practice. From the start of practice to the end of practice, he’s one of those guys that’s very outspoken, so not having him there is a little bit different, but [assistant Eugene Chung] has done a great job of stepping in. He’s freaking really working us hard. That’s kind of what we need right now in the offseason, to get in shape and make sure we know everything at a fast enough pace.’’

The Eagles do like to work at a crisp pace – that’s a hallmark of the Reid era, and a challenge for someone trying to learn. Kelce said quickly grasping terminology is Bell’s biggest hurdle so far.

“He gets it right away when we’re inside, but when we come out here, going full speed, I’ll make a call, he’ll go ‘What’s that?’ then Evan has to explain it to him, like, ‘We’re doing this.’ That’s been the biggest adjustment so far for him, but he’s done a good job of learning very quickly,” Kelce said.

“Everything’s coming together,” Bell said. “The second day was a whole lot better than [Tuesday] … the more we have days like this, the better it’ll be for me … The scheme is different. As far as pass-blocking, it’s way more physical, it’s not passive, it’s not sitting back … the run game is different angles.”

Bell said he hasn’t stepped on a scale lately, but he has been a constant presence in the team’s offseason conditioning program, and he thinks “my physique’s changed – I’ve lost a lot of body fat … I feel great.”

Bell’s athleticism might be a safer bet than his health. He missed eight Buffalo games in 2009 with a knee injury and nine games last season with a shoulder problem, though he started all 16 games in 2010. Bell was Peters’ successor with the Bills.

Asked whether he could reassure fans that he’ll be healthy, Bell said: “I can’t ensure that; this is football. You could always get hurt out here. It is what it is. I feel great right now.”

Bell said he maintains a strong bond with Peters, his mentor with the Bills, and he last spoke to Peters around the time of the first Achilles’ surgery. Peters retore the tendon, reportedly in a fall, earlier this month, and underwent a second surgery. That would seem to eliminate any possibility that he might play this season.

Birdseed

The mystery of the whereabouts of linebacker Keenan Clayton was cleared up when the team got around to announcing his “core muscle,” or sports hernia, surgery Wednesday. Seems pretty clear the Eagles knew where Clayton was Tuesday, just didn’t feel like telling us yet … Clayton, a fourth-round pick in 2010, is going to be hard-pressed to claim a roster spot in a crowded LB corps … Some of the new offensive linemen were even more confused than usual Wednesday when Brandon Graham rushed standing up, from the inside, on a blitz. “He’s wearing 54, and he looks like a linebacker,” one of them said. A veteran quickly cleared up the confusion. The team lists DE Graham at 6-2, 265 … Former starting Eagles center Hank Fraley joined the intern coaching group Wednesday. Fraley is an assistant at the University of San Diego. n

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. Read the Daily News’ Eagles blog, Eagletarian, atwww.Eagletarian.com.

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