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Eagles Playing "What's My Line?'

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You take a quick look at the Eagles offensive line on their depth chart and you see the potential for greatness.

Then you look out on the field and see Winston Justice.

There isn’t another area on this team where the ceiling is so high and the floor so low than the offensive line which as training camp concluded its first week was still in a state of flux.

Injuries have kept left tackle Jason Peters and right tackle Shawn Andrews out of the lineup and have limited right guard Stacy Andrews.

That’s not the best situation for a unit that is trying to rebuilds its front five after being set at tackle the past nine years with Tra Thomas on the left side and Jon Runyan on the right.

“I think it’s crucial that we gel,’’ Eagles head coach Andy Reid said in between practices at Lehigh last week. “We have a lot of new people and that will determine the outcome of this football team, how we come together as a unit.

“And I’m saying coaches, their relationships with these players, the players’ relationships with each other, and the trust factor is huge among all the parties. There’s a lot of talent there and we have to come together, and the best way, I think, to do that is you get out here and you sweat together and you bust your tail together and there is a tendency to bring you together as a football team.”

Once Peters (quad injury), Shawn Andrews (back) and Stacy Andrews (knee) all get on the field, Reid will see what he has. But there will still be questions ranging from how good this group will be to will they ever come together?

Start with Peters, the left tackle acquired from Buffalo in exchange for last year’s No. 28 pick in the draft and a lower-round pick.

The undrafted tight end out of Arkansas made himself into a Pro Bowl left tackle. Scouts have said that when he plays his best, he is every bit as good as Thomas was in his prime and maybe better. Reid has called him “the best left tackle in the game’’ and the Eagles paid him like it.

Last year, however, as he was mired in a contract hassle with the Bills he let his play slip and allowed double digits in sacks. Now that he has his money will his play rise or will he lose his motivation.

That will only be answered once he gets on the field.

The Andrews’ brothers are a story within themselves.

Stacy suffered a torn ACL in Cincinnati last season and is still not ready for the training camp two-a-day regimen. When he is, he’ll be shifting back to right guard. He played right tackle for the Bengals last year and before the injury played it rather well.

Again, if all goes well he could be a road grader at the guard position and give the Eagles the same kind of play it had gotten there from his brother in the past. But it is changing positions and there is the knee.

“I’m feeling better every day,’’ Andrews said of the knee. “I just have to make sure it’s strong enough. It feels fine. There isn’t anything I can’t do. I just have to be smart about it.’’

He doesn’t think the position switch is a big deal, either.

“I’ve done both in my career,’’ he said. “Actually I’ve played left guard and right guard, but last year I strictly played right tackle. Do I have a preference? Not really, it doesn’t matter to me.’’

It will matter if Shawn’s back spasms, remember he had back problems that forced him to have surgery and miss almost all of last year, keep him out again for any extended period of time.

And again, he is moving from right guard the only position he has played in his five years in the NFL to right tackle, a position he has not played since college.

“We have time,’’ Reid said. “But sure I want to see everyone out there together. But we’re not going to rush it right now.’’

The one player who seems to be the most constant is Todd Herremans, the left guard who has been playing left tackle in Peters’ absence.

Herremans had his best season as a pro in 2008 after almost losing his job with poor play in 2007.

So the question has to be asked: Which Herremans will we see in 2009?

Finally at center Jamaal Jackson is coming off a subpar 2008. There was the death of his brother that surely played on his mind, but he could also be following in the path set by former Eagles centers Bubba Miller and Hank Fraley, also undrafted free agents who after a few good years eventually played down to that status.

If Jackson falters, Nick Cole, who has been filling in at right guard for Andrews could get the spot at center.

“There are not a lot of teams that have as many starting quality offensive linemen as we do, or as we think we do,’’ Reid said. “We’re going to put the five best out there.’’

 

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