Eagles' offensive line gets first full workout of spring

CLEM MURRAY / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jason Peters (71) was part of the first-team offensive line that practiced at minicamp yesterday.
CLEM MURRAY / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jason Peters (71) was part of the first-team offensive line that practiced at minicamp yesterday.
Posted: June 06, 2013

THE SETTING was minicamp, meaning short pants and no contact, but on the sweep to the right early in yesterday's workout, the Eagles' offensive line looked huge, swift and powerful.

This was rarely said in 2012, especially after Jason Kelce (knee) and Todd Herremans (foot and ankle) joined Jason Peters (Achilles') on the sideline. The Birds allowed 48 sacks. Down the stretch, their best offensive lineman might have been a journeyman guard named Jake Scott, who hadn't practiced a down of football in 2012 before signing with the Birds on Nov. 12.

Scott was tossed back into free agency when the season ended. He signed with the Lions yesterday. Meanwhile, at NovaCare, for the first time, new Eagles coach Chip Kelly was able to watch Peters at left tackle, next to Evan Mathis, Kelce, Todd Herremans and first-round rookie Lane Johnson - Kelly's presumptive starting offensive line. Mathis and Kelce were surprise participants, at least to reporters, Mathis having undergone an ankle cleanout earlier in the spring, Kelce having set training camp as his date for returning to full activity, after suffering ACL and MCL tears last September.

"Continuity and communication goes a long way for offensive-line play. We're able to grow each day that we have the unit together," Mathis said. "It was definitely a good thing for the whole band to be back together."

Much of the scrutiny focused on Peters, arguably the team's most dominant player at any position, who'd skipped the past few weeks of optional Organized Team Activities over what he termed "a personal issue" yesterday. This minicamp, the last gathering of the team before rookies report to training camp July 22, is mandatory.

"He looks like he's never been through an Achilles' injury, to me," Mathis said. "He's phenomenal. He's a tremendous athlete, before and after the injury."

Peters, 31, underwent two Achilles' surgeries a year ago, the second after he said a problem with the cart-like device he was using during rehab caused him to fall and reinjure himself. Offensive-line coach Jeff Stoutland raved about Peters' athleticism when Stoutland spoke to reporters a few weeks ago, but with Peters not on the field since then, yesterday's performance was reassuring.

The Achilles' injuries "ain't set me back nothing," Peters said, when asked the long-term effects. "I'm gonna play just like I been playing. If not, I'm just going to hang my helmet up."

So he's the same player he was when he made five successive Pro Bowls?

"Come check me out on Sunday, preseason games. You'll see if I'm back. You be the judge. I know y'all always writing stuff about different stuff, but you be the judge of it. I'm gonna go out there and play as hard as I can," Peters said. "I'm not gonna win all the battles, but I'm gonna win most of 'em."

Peters said that he has "the playbook down," that the remaining adjustments all have to do with syncing the linemates.

Kelly was asked how he thought Peters looked.

"I don't know. I'll watch the film. He has been in touch. We talked to him while he was away. He really has just missed the last 2 weeks. He was here for the voluntary minicamp, part of the OTAs. Really sharp kid when it comes to football knowledge," Kelly said. "He has been in contact with [Stoutland]; they text back and forth. I don't think he is that far behind. We will get a chance to look at the film. I am sure he made a couple of mistakes today, but they are correctable mistakes."

Kelly wasn't making any giddy pronouncements about having his top line together, because the coach has made a big deal out of how jobs will be won and lost in training camp, when the pads are on. But he said one benefit of having the line together is that Kelce "gets to see himself on film instead of seeing someone else on film," which will help in picking up the offense.

Kelce, a rookie standout in 2011 who went down in the second game of 2012, said he "probably would have been perfectly fine" had he not been able to get on the field with the rest of the line until training camp, but "it's very exciting, and just from the mental aspect of the whole offensive line having been out there today, and hopefully the rest of this week, we'll feel that much better going into training camp, so that's a plus . . . The offensive line, so much has to do with not just having good players, but good chemistry."

Kelly hasn't named a starting quarterback, so the line won't get to settle in with one signal-caller right away. Is that a problem?

"I think we're going to have enough reps with whoever the quarterback is going to be," Kelce said. "We've been [getting] a lot of reps with both Mike [Vick] and Nick [Foles] at this point. We're very familiar with both of them coming into this season, as well, because we dealt with them a lot last year."

Kelce wouldn't be practicing if these were contact workouts. He has a little ways to go before his knee is ready for training camp, he said.

"I felt great. Obviously, it's not quite back to new yet, but I felt really good, and I'm excited to get through this week and into training camp and really get the pads on and see how it feels then," said Kelce, who said he took about half the 11-on-11 reps. He said he hopes to increase that number today and then to take all reps tomorrow.

Mathis said his balky ankle "was really annoying [last season]. Bothered me toward the end of the season; played through it. Then after the season, it didn't flare up as much, so we decided not to have the surgery. Then after first OTAs and minicamp, it started to bother me, and we decided to take care of it before it flares up during the season. Got it cleaned out. now it's a nonissue."

Peters said the current line definitely ought to be able to forge more success than the Eagles experienced last season.

"I'm pretty sure we're not going 4-12 again," he said.

Today on PhillyDailyNews.com : The dollars and cents of the quarterback decision and, well, we're talking sconces!

On Twitter: @LesBowen

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