King Dunlap starting for Eagles; Jason Peters making progress

Posted: October 26, 2012

The increasing number of questions about Jason Peters' return is all one needs to know about the state of the Eagles' left tackle situation and the offensive line in general.

On the day he officially announced King Dunlap's return to the starting lineup, Eagles coach Andy Reid fielded as many questions about Peters as he did his current left tackle.

"There's a chance," Reid said of the injured Peters' playing this season.

The fact is that Reid won't have to worry about a Peters return if Dunlap or the rest of the offensive line can't improve enough for the Eagles to have a realistic shot at the playoffs by the time Peters is eligible to play.

Otherwise, there would be no point in rushing back Peters, who ruptured an Achilles tendon twice within a month in March and April. Still, after six games with a line that has collapsed like a house of cards since injuries to Peters and then center Jason Kelce, any positive news is welcome.

"Jason Peters is making progress," Reid said Wednesday. "He's moving around, running, doing some agility things, but [he's] not ready to go. He's got time here."

The Eagles have until Nov. 6 to decide whether Peters, who is on the non-football injury list, is healthy enough to return to practice. They would then have three weeks to decide whether to activate Peters by Nov. 27 or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

Reid had been pessimistic about a return. But something recent in Peters' recovery must have buoyed the coach's hopes, unless Reid is desperately grasping at straws. Peters was seen Monday working up a sweat running through light agility drills on the practice field.

"You saw [Terrell] Suggs go through this thing," Reid said of the Baltimore Ravens linebacker. "Now the difference is Jason's had two of these [injuries]. But I'm not going to put him at risk."

Suggs, who ruptured his Achilles in April, returned Sunday against the Houston Texans and recorded a sack in 44 plays. Suggs had what was deemed a partial tear, however, and plays a different position from Peters.

Even if Peters technically isn't ready by Nov. 27, the Eagles could activate him for the 53-man roster and keep him on the shelf until the playoffs, if applicable. The joke going around Twitter is that a one-legged Peters is better than what the Eagles now have at left tackle.

Demetress Bell lost his job after his resemblance to a turnstile in the Eagles' 26-23 overtime meltdown against Detroit. Reid said that Dunlap was back up because his hamstring was healthy after it took him out of the Ravens game in Week 2.

But Dunlap had been telling reporters for weeks that he was ready to go. Coincidentally, he makes his return vs. an Atlanta team against which he made his first career start two years ago. Dunlap filled in for Peters then and helped keep defensive end John Abraham from recording a sack.

When he has played, Dunlap has been serviceable. But he has been hampered by several injuries over the last three seasons.

"Injuries are part of the game," Dunlap said. "It happens. I'm not the only offensive lineman that's gotten hurt before."

Bell said that he took Dunlap's fully recovered hamstring as reason for his demotion, although he refused to comment on his level of frustration. The line, as a whole, has been under fire. Guard Danny Watkins declined to answer questions Monday because he said that he did not appreciate some stories written about the unit.

He changed his mind (or had it changed?) two days later.

"I don't think people fully understand the schemes and what we're trying to do and blocking assignments and who is responsible for who," Watkins said. "Some of these bloggers you read about, I don't think they have a clue what they're talking about."

When Reid spoke about making more moves than just firing defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, many assumed the line would be targeted. Other than making a switch at left tackle - which had nothing to do with performance, if you believe Reid - the Eagles released backup center Steve Vallos and signed Matt Tennant in his place.

Dallas Reynolds' hold on the center position may be tenuous at best.

"Dallas is doing a really good job," Watkins said. "But we just have to learn his calls, his mentality, where he's taking us, where we're going."


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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