Upbeat Peters has big goals for Birds line

Left tackle Jason Peters (right), with center Jason Kelce, said the line will aim to allow the fewest sacks in Eagles history. He also sees big years for Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy.
Left tackle Jason Peters (right), with center Jason Kelce, said the line will aim to allow the fewest sacks in Eagles history. He also sees big years for Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: August 23, 2013

The value of Jason Peters is most realized when he's not in the lineup. Without their Pro Bowl left tackle throughout the 2012 season, the Eagles lost 12 games and allowed 48 sacks. They were never able to adequately replace him.

Peters will play in Saturday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars for the first time since he twice ruptured his right Achilles tendon during the 2012 offseason.

He said he would play three quarters, and he's had no issues this week from the right-hamstring injury that kept him out of the first two preseason games. If right guard Todd Herremans returns to the lineup Saturday, the entire Eagles offensive line will take the field.

"We're trying to be the best, trying to give up the least sacks in Eagles history," Peters said Wednesday. "We have an athletic line. If we come together, we're going to win games because it starts with us."

The fewest sacks the Eagles allowed in a season were 22 in 1981. So they would need a 27-sack decrease to beat the mark, which might be ambitious. But this is also a unique system, one that is predicated on quick decisions and that can run screens or running plays depending on the defense's look.

Peters said that it's easier to be an offensive lineman in this system because the defensive line "tends not to rush as hard" against a fast offense. He expected teams to come out blitzing the Eagles before relenting when the Eagles counteract.

"It's hard for the defensive end when I block down not to close the gap," Peters said. "And as he does that, [quarterback Michael Vick's] going to be reading him."

Peters was bullish on Vick's prospects this year, emphasizing how the read-option is a good fit for the veteran quarterback. Vick was announced as the starter Tuesday. It followed two inconsistent seasons, but Peters expects Vick to return to the form he showed in 2010.

"I view Mike as a Pro Bowler," Peters said. "You see what he did when he had his offensive line. He got the big contract, went to the Pro Bowl. If you don't have your offensive line, as a quarterback your play's going to drop a bit. That's what happened last year. And he was fumbling the ball also. And that all comes with not having your starters protecting it. If we give him time, he's going to make plays."

Of course, Vick had a healthy offensive line in 2011 and still struggled on occasion. But Peters is correct that the line's issues were a major problem in 2012, when Peters was one of four linemen to be lost for the season.

That also had a direct effect on running back LeSean McCoy, who had his worst season since he was a rookie and did not top 1,000 yards in 12 games.

"He's definitely going to be over 1,000 yards earlier than he has been," Peters said.

Peters spends one hour on the stationary bike and one hour on the elliptical each day to improve his endurance for the offense. It's important for him to play Saturday, he said, because needs to get a feel for the pace of coach Chip Kelly's system, which will further accelerate when the season opens against the Redskins on Sept. 9.

"I think they're going to be shocked," Peters said of opposing teams. "But as the year goes on, people are going to try to game-plan for it, get adjusted to it. But they're going to be shocked the first couple weeks when we're coming out quick, fast."

Peters was not worried when his hamstring injury lingered earlier this month. He has emphasized that he was just being cautious and that it was not related to the Achilles injuries.

There's no guarantee that Peters will play as well as he did before the injury, and even Kelly concedes there's no precedent for recovery for someone with Peters' size and athleticism. But Kelly also said there has been no drop-off between what Peters shows on the field and what Kelly saw on tape. Saturday will be the first time Peters can prove it in a game.

"I'm just excited to get out there and run around," Peters said.

Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.

Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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