Jordan Mailata looked right into the Zoom video call screen and let it rip: “I think I’m at running back this week.” Laughter erupted from the Philly press corps because the hulking offensive tackle was clearly joking.
The Eagles colossal “ball of clay” likely will be the backup right tackle this week, assuming Lane Johnson gets a full week of practice and clean bill of health. The All-Pro has been dealing with ankle and knee injuries, able to gut out starts but either sit out series or not finish games.
Mailata’s impromptu stand-up routine was poking fun at the Eagles’ staggering body count on the offensive line. They had been down to one original starter (Jason Kelce) from training camp. However, Johnson’s return — buoyed by left guard Isaac Seumalo hitting the 21-day practice window — could see the unit the closest it’s been to full strength since Week 1. Baby steps, from the behemoths upfront.
Seriously, though. Where will Mailata be lining up on Sunday versus New York?
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Mailata said. “Just like last week taking the same approach, day by day, do whatever the team needs me to do.”
The former Australian rugby star did rule out two spots: left and right guard. Considering Mailata hasn’t taken any practice reps on the inside, he said “you probably won’t see me at guard.” But there is another skill position in play: tight end. It’s a position of need with Zach Ertz out and Dallas Goedert easing himself back in.
“We’ll see what happens, team first,” Mailata said. “Whether that’s to come off the bench or be an extra tight end on those packages.”
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Doug Pederson Mentioned RB for Mailata
Give Mailata credit for knowing his coach’s sense of humor. When the Eagles first used a seventh-round pick on the 346-pounder in 2018, Doug Pederson hinted that he might try Mailata out at running back. Maybe in a William “Refrigerator” Perry kind of goal-line role.
“That’s a good question. I don’t know,” Pederson said about Mailata playing running back, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s definitely used to carrying a larger football. Do they call it a football? I don’t know what they call it. A ball? Very athletic guy. It’s intriguing. It’s not out of the question.”
Pederson never did throw him in the backfield, but it’s important to note it was said. Mailata has been used as a tight end in certain packages and his rugby highlights certainly do seem to indicate he can run the ball.
Good Job or Bad Job Through Five Starts?
There had been much buzz around Mailata over the past five weeks. He filled in admirably for Jason Peters at left tackle for four games, then jumped over to replace Johnson at right tackle for one game. Hence, all the confusion about what’s next for the Aussie with the “crook” body.
Mailata just wants to play and he doesn’t care where. He understands reps are always at a premium. And he wants all of them.
“Every time I can get on that field, it’s going to make me a better player,” Mailata said, “and give me that one extra ounce of experience I need.”
Of course, the big man was quick to admit last week’s bye was “awesome” and helped heal his aching body. Mailata got a chance to go over his first five starts with Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland during the downtime. The compliments were kept to a minimum, in pure Stoutland fashion.
“He said I did a great job but also I did a bad job,” a laughing Mailata said. “He said you did a great job but it wasn’t perfect, a lot to work on … he keeps it short, simple, very direct. He’ll never butter you up.”
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