Herremans' job always on the line

Posted: June 20, 2014

BEING AN NFL player on the other side of 30 is kind of like being a sleeping old person. Everybody always is checking on you to make sure you're still breathing.

Todd Herremans hardly is a gridiron geriatric. He's just 31-going-on-32 and is only the third-oldest player on the Eagles' offensive line, 11 months younger than left guard Evan Mathis and 9 months younger than left tackle Jason Peters.

But Mathis was a first-team All-Pro selection last season and Peters earned his sixth Pro Bowl invitation. So nobody is calling the paramedics for them quite yet.

Herremans, though, who has started 116 games at four positions in nine seasons for the Eagles, is a different story.

Switched from right tackle to right guard last year to make room for first-round pick Lane Johnson, Herremans did not have one of his better years, which has prompted whispers that this could be his final season in Philadelphia.

The facts that Herremans' salary-cap number will increase from $4.2 million to $5.2 million in 2015, and that the Eagles recently signed versatile guard-tackle backup Allen Barbre to a 3-year, $4.35 million contract extension, suggest to some that they are starting to make contingency plans at right guard in case Herremans has another lukewarm season.

He said he's not losing any sleep over it.

"Ever since I was in college, I've had people who didn't want me on the team," Herremans said. "So it's nothing new.

"I have something to prove every year. I think Allen deserved that extension. I think he's a solid member of our offensive line and we need him here. As far as proving anything, I just want to go out and play as good as I can. If I do that and other people see it differently, well, I guess that's their opinion."

Herremans didn't play badly last season. He just didn't play as well as he had in previous seasons. His run blocking was solid as he and the rest of the line helped LeSean McCoy become the first Eagles running back in 64 years to win the NFL rushing title.

But he struggled with his pass blocking, giving up four sacks, 10 hits and 34 hurries. The only Eagles offensive lineman with poorer numbers was Johnson, who gave up 10 sacks, eight hits and 39 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.

"I started out rough, but got into a groove in the second half of the season, and felt I was playing pretty well towards the end," Herremans said.

Last season was Herremans' first at right guard. He had spent the bulk of his career at left guard before being switched to right tackle just before the start of the 2011 season.

Stayed at right tackle in 2012, but missed the last eight games that year with a foot injury. Was bumped inside to right guard last year after the Eagles drafted Johnson with the fourth overall pick.

Herremans admitted that it took him a little while to learn to move around again on his surgically repaired foot. He also said he had a more difficult time than expected adjusting to the tackle-to-guard position switch.

Herremans started 71 games at left guard from 2006-10, but had never played right guard before last season.

"It was harder than I thought it would be because I had played so many years at [left] guard," he said as the Eagles concluded their 3-day minicamp yesterday. "But playing the other side was tougher than I thought it would be. There are a couple of different things you do at right guard than you do at left guard. You see different kinds of players. But it all worked out. I got the kinks out."

While his weight is down to 310, which is about 10 pounds lighter than he played at last season, Herremans has dramatically increased his muscle mass. His arms look like telephone poles.

"I've just been here doing what they have us doing," he said.

The Eagles have one of the most athletic lines in the NFL, which was evident last season in the way they were able to get to the perimeter on outside zone run plays with McCoy and block on screens and get to the second level to take out linebackers.

The Eagles led the league in rushing last season, averaging 160.4 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry.

The area in which they want to see better results this season is pass protection. The Eagles didn't have a starting offensive lineman miss a start, yet still allowed 46 sacks.

That's only two fewer than they gave up the previous year when Peters, Herremans and center Jason Kelce missed a total of 38 starts due to injuries. The Eagles finished 25th in sacks allowed per pass play in 2013.

"Forty-six sacks was way too many," Herremans said. "We're going to focus a little more on pass protection and try to tighten some things up this year."

Not all of the 46 sacks were the fault of the line. Some were on the quarterbacks, some were on the running backs and some were on the receivers.

"We still had plenty that were on us, though," he said. "On the right side, especially. Miscommunications, mental mistakes, things like that. But those are things we should be able to eliminate in the second year in the system.

"I feel real good about our unit. I think if we're able to pick up at a good place from where we left off last year and are able to build on it this summer . . . I think Lane is going to make a big leap this year from where he was last year. Evan and J.P. and Kelce all are real solid players. And I think we're meshing real well.

"I expect us to be one of the strengths of the team and [let them be able to] lean on us if they need to."

And if everything works out the way Herremans hopes, he'll be back at right guard again in 2015 for his 11th season with the Eagles.

Email: pdomo@aol.com

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