PHILADELPHIA -- We have handicapped the competition for the Philadelphia Eagles' starting right guard job. Matt Tobin appeared to have the early edge on Andrew Gardner, with the caveat that Gardner replaced Tobin during the 2014 season.
But the competition changed last week when the Eagles signed John Moffitt, a former third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. Moffitt, 28, has started 15 NFL games, more than either Tobin or Gardner. He was also drafted higher than either Tobin or Gardner, which means he was considered to have more potential when he came out of college.
Moffit also has another advantage. The Eagles already had Tobin and Gardner on the roster when they decided to seek more help. They tried to sign Chris Chester, a former starter who was released by Washington. Chester signed in Atlanta. When Moffit announced he was returning to the NFL after his 2013 retirement, the Eagles pursued him.
That all suggests that after watching Tobin and Gardner through organized team activities and a minicamp, Chip Kelly and his staff weren’t confident they had a replacement for Todd Herremans at right guard. So Moffitt will report to training camp on Aug. 2 with a legitimate chance to win the starting job. He might even be considered the favorite.
We should have an indication early. Though Chip Kelly likes to ease rookies into the mix, he has shown a tendency to keep his offensive linemen together as much as possible. Last season, with a PED suspension looming for right tackle Lane Johnson, Kelly had Allen Barbre working with the first team throughout the entire preseason.
So whichever five linemen start in the first preseason game are likely to be the first-team line unless someone gets injured or plays poorly enough to warrant a change.
Tobin, who signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie in 2013, seems to have the most upside. He moved into the starting lineup last season at left guard, after Evan Mathis sprained his knee. When Mathis returned and Herremans was injured, Tobin shifted to right guard.
In his first real playing time on the right side, Tobin had trouble adjusting. He had to learn how to balance himself from the opposite side, and that led to some problems. Opposing defensive linemen were able to catch Tobin off-balance, and gain an advantage. Before Tobin could correct the problem, Gardner was starting at right guard.
Gardner went through a similar experience to Tobin’s earlier in the season. When Barbre injured his ankle in the season opener, Gardner stepped in at right tackle. He started the next two games. By the fourth game, though, the coaches decided to move Herremans from guard to tackle to give quarterback Nick Foles a little more security.
Gardner started the last six games of the season at right guard, so he earned some status with the coaching staff. But the decision to bring in Moffitt to compete tells you that neither Gardner nor Tobin has established himself as a prohibitive favorite to win the job.