Peters was not just the best offensive lineman on the 8-8 team. Peters was not just the best offensive player on a team that missed the playoffs.
In 2011, Peters was the best player on the team.
Not Vick, nor McCoy, both of whom excelled in large part due to Peters’ play. Not Cole, the team’s second-best player last year, nor bookend Babin, a free-agency success.
Peters, in his third season with the Eagles, has gone to the past five Pro Bowls. He deserved it most in 2011.
With absurd strength and with unreal athleticism for a guy 6-4 and 340 pounds, Peters led screens and sprint-outs. He graded the road for McCoy because Peters doesn’t jiggle when he runs. He simply engulfed linemen and linebackers. Bullied them. Erased them.
Almost everything the Eagles’ gimmicky, intricate offense did last season hinged on Peters winning every play, one-on-one, against the most fearsome animal in football: the right defensive end. Peters allowed three sacks.
His coach, Andy Reid, called him the best left tackle in football.
Others called him the best lineman.
After two less impressive years, Peters last season earned every bit of the 6-year, $60 million deal the Eagles gave him after they traded with Buffalo. Think DeSean Jackson, 2009; Trent Cole, 2007; Donovan McNabb, 2004.
Peters was that good.
Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have lost a lot of weight this offseason. Stress sure can melt the pounds.
"We did do many things because of his great talent and skill and ability," Mornhinweg said, wincing a little in the Monday afternoon sun.
Some of those things will disappear.
The Eagles signed free agent Demetress Bell to replace Peters.
Caught with their knickers around their knees, the Eagles also re-signed gigantic disappointment King Dunlap, whom they discarded before Peters’ injury. Dunlap is their top reserve.
These are serious issues. Mornhinweg realizes this.
"It’s all individual game plan," Mornhinweg said. "Hey, I think Bell is going to fill in just beautifully there. I think he’s got some great skills he can utilize as well."
Perhaps. But no one would expect Patriots backup Brian Hoyer to perform at Tom Brady’s level. Bill Belichick would never ask Hoyer to do all of the things Brady does.
Besides, it will take a while before Bell efficiently functions at full speed. He has a new offense to learn. And just when should Bell, weaned on a more traditional blocking philosophy, be proficient in the aggressive blocking style favored by Eagles line coach Howard Mudd?
Demetress Bell is so pliant that, for years, he allowed the world to call him "Demetrius" just because he didn’t want to correct everyone. Mudd, a creaky 70-year-old on forced hiatus, currently is coaching Bell over the phone.
It took Mudd, new to the Eagles, about 8 weeks to get consistently satisfactory play from his line last year.
Yes, Mudd’s technique was new to everyone; thanks to the lockout, Mudd had no minicamps or full training camp in which to incorporate his style and evaluate his personnel; and Mudd didn’t have his lineup in place until Game 1, and then he had to incorporate rookie right guard Danny Watkins in Game 5.
Know what Mudd had?
"It may fall on some other players and other positions in some of those situations that we did use Jason," Mornhinweg said.
That might mean running plays toward right tackle Todd Herremans. That might means using Evan Mathis in a more athletic role.
Remember, though, Herremans mainly had been a guard in the NFL before his move to right tackle just before the opener. Herremans played well … eventually. But Herremans looked best with tight end Brent Celek in his right hip pocket.
Mathis, a journeyman guard for five seasons, played well enough to become a free-agent millionaire ... after playing next to Jason Peters.
The Eagles should expect less production from McCoy, who averaged 7 yards per carry when he ran behind Peters. McCoy also was available as the check-down of last resort, which resulted in 48 catches. Now, McCoy will be asked to stay home and block more.
And guess which way Vick prefers to run?
The Eagles will have to adjust the expectations of their screen game, which flourished behind Peters’ thunderous lead blocks.
Any predictors will have to adjust their expectations of the Eagles. n
Contact Marcus Hayes at email@example.com