Newest Eagles Starter Takes Subtle Shot at Philly Fans

Andre Dillard

Getty Andre Dillard was the Eagles first-round pick and heir apparent to Jason Peters at left tackle.

Andre Dillard says he’s packed on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason. He’s also packing some loaded opinions.

The second-year tackle out of Washington drew scrutiny last year for not living up his first-round hype. It probably wasn’t warranted or justified, depending on how you gauge success. He was learning a new system and thrust into an unfortunate situation, taking over for a future Hall-of-Fame left tackle in Jason Peters.

No matter, the blue-collar fans in Philly let him have it (including a bizarre social media exchange) and so did a few media members who questioned his “mental toughness” (an odd opinion stemming from a few fights at last year’s training camp).

Water under the bridge, right? Maybe not. On Wednesday, Dillard took a thinly-veiled shot at his doubters. He isn’t losing any sleep over your criticism.

“I don’t really take to heart what fans say. They’re not on our practice field or in our meeting room,” Dillard told reporters. “The only opinion that matters is coaches and players, know what I’m saying?”

Dillard received positive reviews for a three-game stretch in late October at left tackle, then looked downright lost when he was asked to move over to right tackle in Week 11. He was benched at halftime in that game. According to Pro Football Focus, Dillard allowed a pressure rate of 14.7-percent, higher than any other tackle in the NFL — and blew 7.8-percent of his combined pass and run blocks, the worst rate among offensive linemen with 300 or more snaps.

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Dillard Looking for Fresh Start in 2020

Now last year’s 22nd overall pick enters the 2020 campaign as the undisputed starter expected to protect Carson Wentz’s blindside for 16 regular-season games (and hopefully a long playoff run). One pro-active way he sought to improve this offseason was by bulking up his imposing 6-foot-5 frame.

Dillard said he added 20 pounds, up from about 315 to 335. The 22-year-old can already feel the strength in dealing with the Eagles’ powerful pass rushers in practice, more solid and easier to “sit guys down.”

“That definitely was a big goal of mine, to bulk up and get more strength during the offseason,” Dillard said. “I gained about 20 pounds, kept my body fat percentage about the same, maybe a bit lower than it was last year so that’s pretty good. I’ve just been pushing a lot more weight and the results I have been feeling them so far during training camp. I just feel a lot stronger out there.”

He has been splitting reps with swing tackle Jordan Mailata over the past few days as he deals with an undisclosed “day-to-day” minor injury. It’s not expected to sideline him for the season opener in Washington on Sept. 13.

“Andre has put on a great amount of weight, his weight room numbers have been very impressive,” teammate Jason Kelce said. “He’s got a lot of physical attributes that you really like to see in an offensive lineman. No it’s just getting out there and honing in on the technique things, that’s really where he has to take the next step.”

Playing in Peters’ Shadow Not a Problem

The Eagles also decided to bring Peters back and move him to right guard. The plan is for him to replace Brandon Brooks who was lost for the season with a torn right Achilles tendon.

Some have wondered if Peters’ presence — arguably one of the greatest left tackles in the history of the NFL — might impact Dillard’s development in a negative way. Maybe it would shatter the second-year player’s confidence. He doesn’t see it that way, quite the opposite.

“I’m happy that he’s back,” Dillard said. “It’s unfortunate that Brooks went down, but having a familiar face back, a guy that’s legendary and has a lot of knowledge, it’s good to have him on board because he’s one of the greatest linemen ever and he just bolsters our group. I’m excited to keep learning from him this year.”

Dillard also mentioned getting to know his offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland, has brought a renewed focus to his game. It was Stoutland’s idea in the first place for Dillard to add extra strength, something the young tackle has “absolutely improved.”

“I think this year we’re just a lot more familiar with each other and just our personalities and how we click,” Dillard said. “In terms of how he coaches me, it probably won’t change because he has his coaching methods.”

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