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By: Brandon Lee Gowton
Not ideal news for two young players.
Two significant injury developments emerged from Tuesday’s otherwise relatively uneventful Eagles training camp session. Andre Dillard (knee sprain) and K’Von Wallace (groin strain) are both being listed as “week-to-week” after getting banged up in practice. There are some things to unpack with both of these injuries, so let’s do just that.
Let’s be honest: the left tackle “competition” was already over. Dillard has been really struggling in practice while Mailata has been really excelling. Dillard’s injury merely closes the door on any incredibly unlikely chance (less than 1%) he had to win the job.
The bigger ramifications of Dillard’s injury have to do with 1) his spot on the team moving forward and 2) the Eagles’ left tackle depth.
On the first point, Dillard’s injury probably kills any trade value he had left. And that’s disappointing since the Eagles probably could’ve moved him for a late Day 3 pick to clear both a roster spot and $1.62 million in cap space. That might not seem like much but it’s still preferable to keeping his salary on the books and getting no return if/when he’s cut next offseason.
Some might think it’s too soon to give up on Dillard. I couldn’t disagree more. If the Eagles didn’t trade up in the 2019 NFL Draft to select him at No. 22 overall, I don’t think he’d be in serious contention to even make the roster. He’s not looking like one of the best 53 players on the team. There are several factors not to like here. He’s struggling against both power and speed. He’s been injured in camp two years in a row. His ceiling for improvement might not be very high considering he already turns 26 this season. He doesn’t offer versatility since he only has experience at left tackle.
But, again, the Eagles will probably keep him around because of his pedigree. If/when he returns, he figures to be the top backup to Mailata. Though not a very inspiring one.
The question is: who is Mailata’s backup while Dillard is out? With Casey Tucker (biceps) also “week-to-week” and Le’Raven Clark (Achilles) expected to begin the season on reserve/PUP, that leaves … Brett Toth.
The Eagles seem to like Toth. They made an effort to bring him back to Philly after the Arizona Cardinals waived him last season. But Toth hasn’t really looked good in camp and that’s not to be totally unexpected. The Army product played at right tackle in college and didn’t get much pass-blocking experience at such a run-heavy program. Though the Dillard injury theoretically helps his chances, Toth isn’t a lock to make the Eagles’ roster.
Jack Driscoll has tackle experience but he’s only lined up on the right side for the Eagles. Also. they currently have him working at right guard. Undrafted rookie free agent signing Kayode Awosika played left tackle for Buffalo but is lining up at left guard in the NFL. Isaac Seumalo has played tackle in the past, though only in a pinch at the professional level.
There’s hardly a tackle surplus in the NFL so it’s not like the Eagles can easily find suitable alternatives. Jason Peters is still out there, of course, but we all know that’s not a viable route because he’s just going to get hurt again. The Eagles might have to hope Mailata stays healthy until at least Clark is ready to return from PUP.
Note to remember: if the Eagles place Dillard (or any player) on injured reserve BEFORE roster cuts down to 53, they are out for the entire season. This was the case with him last year. Dillard must be carried on the original 53-man roster for a few days before he’s eligible to go on injured reserve and then return as soon as three weeks later.
Prior to getting hurt, Wallace was splitting first team safety reps with Marcus Epps next to Anthony Harris. Wallace seemed to be considered the favorite to win that job but, unlike the left tackle battle, it’s been much more evenly matched. And I’d argue that Epps’ best practice, which took place in front of fans at the Linc, was better than Wallace’s best practice.
Wallace’s injury could cement Epps as the Week 1 starter next to Harris. That is, assuming Rodney McLeod is unable to play, which isn’t clear. McLeod said he plans on being ready for the season opener but he’s still on the active/PUP list. Based on his rehab activity, he seems to be further along than the aforementioned Le’Raven Clark. So, it’s possible McLeod truly will be available against the Atlanta Falcons. But maybe McLeod won’t be ready until Week 2 or Week 3 or so.
As far as the Eagles’ safety depth is impacted, Wallace’s injury increases the chances of Andrew Adams and/or Elijah Riley making the roster. They’re the top two backups behind Harris and Epps right now. Grayland Arnold could also be in the mix but he’s been missing time with an injury.
Depending on the severity of their injuries, the Eagles might have to carry both Dillard and Wallace on their original 53 before moving them to IR.