Size has mattered over the years when evaluating offensive linemen in Philadelphia. Jordan Mailata worked out; King Dunlap not so much. So the decision to keep Josh Sills on the initial 53-man roster really shouldn’t have surprised anyone who has been paying attention.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman saw promise and potential in Sills, a 6-foot-6, 325-pound monster who can play tackle or guard. He recorded 41 knockdown blocks and 21 pancake blocks as a senior at Oklahoma State while earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. Yes, Sills was a guy very high on the organization’s radar and a strong camp only reinforced that belief.
“He’s powerful, he’s versatile. He can play inside or outside,” Roseman told reporters. “I’m not putting him in Canton. I’m starting to listen to my own description, and it sounds unbelievable. But the guy has talent in his body, and I think when you talk about Jack, they play different positions really. So, we kind of tried to figure out what we had, what we were looking for, and it was a tough call.”
The tough call was in regard to keeping Sills over veteran Jack Anderson. He’s not exactly sleek and compact, at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds. Plus, Anderson has legit experience as a fill-in guard and saw action in two games last season for the Eagles while turning heads in the preseason.
According to Roseman, the decision to stick with Sills came down to versatility since he is better suited to swing outside or play inside. The Eagles are banking on offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland to mold him into the next dominant tackle.
“We had a lot of tough decisions on the offensive line. Feel very fortunate to have the offensive line group we have,” Roseman said. “Obviously, we talk a lot about Stout and how he coaches those guys, and that was probably the toughest position group for us to kind of cut down.”
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Being Secretive About Gardner-Johnson’s Role
The unofficial depth chart, compiled by the Eagles’ public relations department, has Chauncey Gardner-Johnson slotted in as the starting safety opposite Marcus Epps. They didn’t steal him away from the Saints – and release veteran starter Anthony Harris — to sit him on the bench.
He’ll start in Week 1. However, it is interesting to note that most of his NFL experience has been at nickel corner: 1,367 career snaps there versus 80 at safety.
Gardner-Johnson is a versatile chess piece, one that could be the key to the backend of Jonathan Gannon’s defense. For now, head coach Nick Sirianni is keeping his role hush-hush.
“We have a good player in him, there’s no doubt. That’s our job as coaches, to have a plan, and we do,” Sirianni said. “I think at this point right now, it doesn’t benefit us to talk about how we’re playing him, where we’re playing him, because we’re in game plan week right now. The fact that he didn’t have any snaps here with us is an unknown to Detroit, so we’ll keep it that way.”
Reed Blankenship Compared to Ex-Eagles Safety
The Eagles rostered three undrafted rookies: OL Josh Sills, CB Josh Jobe, S Reed Blankenship. The latter was arguably the best of the bunch in the preseason, a guy who always seemed to be buzzing around the football. He outplayed several veterans at camp and emphatically staked his claim to a spot based on his play.
Roseman, despite cautioning expectations, threw out a lofty comparison for Blankenship.
“I don’t want to put too high expectations on him, but he kind of reminded me of a guy like Quintin Mikell who we had here,” Roseman said. “He has physical tools, but he’s always around the ball, and credit to him and our coaches for putting him in a position to make plays. We wanted to recognize that because we had a smaller draft class, we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to make this team.”
Mikell started 103 games at safety for the Eagles over an eight-year career in midnight green. He was a leader on and off the field, mentoring under Brian Dawkins. He retired after the 2013 season with 12 interceptions and 699 tackles, plus a Pro Bowl appearance in 2009.