Inside the Numbers: Jordan Mailata Remains a Long-Term Project
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The answer for the Eagles at left tackle is as obvious as the nose on your face and it involves a 36-year-old future Hall of Famer not a 21-year-old Aussie running over much smaller people on YouTube.
Fast forward to 2020 and we might be having a completely different discussion but Jordan Mailata remains a long-term project for Philadelphia even if he's held up better against Association of American Football and XFL talent better than we all expected.
The much-ballyhooed struggles of Halapoulivaati Vaitai have a lot to do with the competition whether it was the savvy Adrian Clayborn in New England or the talented Myles Garrett in Cleveland.
Believe me, the Eagles were not letting Mailata near the field against the Browns while Gregg Williams was still trotting Garrett, the uber-talented former No. 1 overall pick, out to the field. That was Big V's cross to bear as Doug Pederson and Jeff Stoutland keep Jason Peters in the bubble wrap with Sept. 6 and Atlanta the goal.
The good news is Mailata is farther along than anyone could have expected and that AAF and XFL talent has been playing this game for years so the hype over the skill set with the 6-foot-8, 350-pound Mailata is real.
Through three preseason games Mailata has played 60 snaps at left tackle, according to ProFootballFocus.com and his grade has improved each week (63.1 in 30 reps against Pittsburgh, 63.5 in a cursory four snaps against New England, and 74.6 in 26 reps versus the Browns).
The trajectory here remains the same, however, and that's practice squad in 2018, a roster spot by 2019, and perhaps the starting left tackle position in 2020 when Peters may have finally called it a career with the GPS pointed toward Canton.
The Eagles used two roster spots last season on developmental prospects they thought had worthwhile ceilings despite poor preseasons -- running back Donnel Pumphrey and receiver Shelton Gibson -- so it's at least possible they could carry Mailata on the final 53 and simply not dress him each week.
The fear of losing players on waivers is overblown in general, though, and in this case, it's extremely unlikely anyone who hasn't been molding Mailata since the spring is going to use a roster spot on someone who may turn into something three years down the road.
It always only take one, however, and that's when the mind can start playing tricks with you, something which could also put injured reserve on the table because Mailata has been fighting through a knee injury dating back to his days on the rugby field down under. That scenario would mean Mailata losing valuable on-field practice time, however.
Whatever the Eagles decide from a roster standpoint -- redshirt on active roster, PS or IR -- Mailata is going to be here but the mantra remains patience young grasshopper.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen