We continue our position-by-position breakdown of the NFC East's teams with a look at the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive line, which is missing its best player.
Potential strength: Experience in the system. Mathis, Kelce and Herremans all took extremely well to new offensive line coach Howard Mudd and his schemes last year, and Watkins improved as his rookie year went along. The second year with Mudd for that foursome should bring even greater comfort and improvement, and they should continue to thrive and excel. It was a stellar run-blocking unit all year long, and as the season unfolded it improved as a pass-blocking group as well. The only difference between last year and this one is the left tackle, which we address in the next portion of our analysis.
Potential weakness: Bell. He may well be a very good player for them, and they were unquestionably right to sign him once Jason Peters tore his Achilles tendon. But no matter how well he takes to his new surroundings, it's hard to imagine Bell giving the Eagles what Peters gave them in terms of athleticism, quickness and the ability to wreak havoc upfield as well as at the point of attack on the same play. They will have to make adjustments and give Bell more help than they gave Peters last season, and that could result in some scheme changes on offense. The worst-case scenario is, of course, that Bell doesn't pick up the scheme and plays poorly, giving them a weak link in an area that was supposed to be one of their strengths.
Keep an eye on: Watkins. The 2011 first-round pick wasn't the starter at the beginning of 2011, but he improved enough as the year went along to become a reliable piece of the line in the second half of the year. His second NFL season should see an even bigger leap and enable the Eagles to create more room directly in front of Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. Both of those players operate well in space, so the idea of more space available directly in front of them (as opposed to on the edges) is an appealing one for the Eagles' offense.