Stoutland handicaps the Eagles’ right guard position
PHILADELPHIA - Matt Tobin got the first opportunity and Andrew Gardner has gotten the most chances to lock down the Eagles' right guard position in training camp. In between Julian Vandervelde and John Moffitt have also garnered first-team reps.
So, when Eagles public relations chief Derek Boyko was told to put together the team's first unofficial depth chart in advance of the preseason opener against Indianapolis on Sunday, he threw up his hands and declared all four men as potential starters at the position, putting them in alphabetical order and separating each with slashes.
The razor-thin space a slash takes up on the page is apropos because the candidates are that close and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland admitted that preseason action will likely determine who ends up at the position on Week 1 in Atlanta.
Gardner, a sixth-year player out of Georgia Tech who spent a lot of time at right guard last season as an injury replacement for Todd Herremans, has begun to emerge a bit in practice, spending the last three days with the first team, indicating he will get the start against the Colts.
"A guy like Gardner might not be as quick or as explosive (as you would like at guard), but he has a lot more size and he’s a lot longer (6-foot-6) so people have to go a lot further to get around him," Stoutland claimed.
Tobin, on the other hand, is the guy the Eagles coaching staff clearly hoped would seize the position but the University of Iowa product has struggled, largely because he's more comfortable on the left side according to Stoutland.
“Tobin has done a really nice job playing on the right side, which was a little unnatural for him." the coach said. "I still think he needs to keep working over there."
Vandervelde, meanwhile, is a versatile player who may be best served as an interior reserve because of his ability to slide from position to position with little drop off.
“Julian is a center-guard-type player who has value from that standpoint because he can play multiple positions," the coach asserted.
The wild card in the competition remains Moffitt, a former third-round pick in Seattle who has been sidelined for two years due to personal issues that included a stint in rehab. The former Wisconsin star has the best natural skill set of the group but needs to continue to work on his timing and footwork which remain rusty due to inactivity.
“John is getting better every day." Stoutland believes. "You can tell he has been off for a couple years. He’s getting all that timing back right now, and you can see it. We’ve still got to get his feet going a little bit, with some of the angles and all that, and he knows it."
It's ironic that Herremans will be returning to Philadelphia as a starter for the Colts while his former position remain the most uncertain of all for the Eagles.
“The preseason game film is going to be very valuable to us in terms of deciding who that person (the starter) will be,” Stoutland said. “We have absolutely exhausted the process to make sure we have the right person.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.Com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen