Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata Embracing Competition for Left Tackle Job
The word competition is one that new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has stressed since being hired on Jan 24.
"The thing that's important to me is that we compete every single day," Sirianni stated during his opening press conference back in January.
"We compete every single day. Just like it's important to practice a play to get good at that play so you can run it in a game, it's important to practice competing. The parity in this league is so tight. Every game comes down to a one-score game. We have to pour that into our DNA here in Philadelphia. In the meeting room, it’s important that we compete. On the field and also off the field, we're constantly going to be competing with each other."
One of the top competitions for a starting job will involve Eagles 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard and 2018 seventh-round selection Jordan Mailata.
"Its an open competition," acknowledged Adam Caplan from the Inside the Birds Podcast during Football at Four on The Sports Bash. "We are heavily believing Mailata will win it, if we put odds out, but he has not started a full season and hasn't proven anything yet."
Dillard missed all of the 2020 season due to a torn bicep and struggled during his rookie campaign, filling in for an injured Jason Peters. With Dillard out last season and Peters injured, the team turned to Mailata, who opened some eyes with his play.
"He really surprised some team observers with his play last season," Caplan stated. "Particularly against Baltimore and Pittsburgh were most people thought he would struggle, he actually played at a very high level."
Mailata is a hulking man, with very little football background. He was drafted as a project after spending is time in his native Australia playing rugby. After dealing with injuries and learning a new game, he finally got a chance to show the team why Howie Roseman took a flyer on him in the draft, even with no football experience.
"I still have to earn my place," explained Mailata on Thursday. "I'm still trying to prove to myself that I am a dominate left tackle in this league. In order for me to do that I need to keep challenging myself everyday."
As for Dillard, he has the pedigree to win this competition. The former first-round pick entered the league with a reputation to be a terrific pass protector. If he can regain his form, he might open some eyes, just as Mailata did when he got his chance last season.
"Losing a season to injury makes you see things in a different perspective," Dillard said. "It lit this huge fire in me, a fire that I haven't felt before. Something like this has never happened to me."
"Dillard is coming in with a good attitude," Caplan said. He's healthy and super athletic."
The Eagles are hoping this left tackle competition solidifies what should be a much improved offensive line in 2021, with the hopeful return of starters Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks on the right side of the line.
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