THE DILLARD ERA MAY START SOONER THAN EXPECTED
Has the Andre Dillard era at left tackle started? It may have. During the first half of the Eagles frustrating 38-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, future Hall of Fame tackle Jason Peters left the game with a knee injury.
Rookie Andre Dillard was his replacement. Time will tell if the move is permanent.
Head coach Doug Peterson said at his Monday press conference that Peters was “week-to- week” and was not sure when the 37-year-old veteran would return.
Dillard entered the game with about six snaps of NFL experience under his belt.
Dillard's performance was predictably inconsistent, and that might describe one of the better performances by any Eagles player that afternoon.
“He had some good plays. He had some bad plays quite honestly,” Pederson said at his day-after press conference “He's going against a great defensive end. (Everson) Griffen is a tremendous D-End and I have a lot of respect for him and his game and there were times where Andre looked really good and then there were times when he got a little off balance. We have to do some technique work with him still some more. Just a young player in that atmosphere, but I thought overall, he did some really good things.”
Dillard told reporters after the game that he wasn't going to complain about being thrown to the wolves like he was against the Vikings.
“That’s football. That’s how it goes sometimes,” Dillard said.
The rookie, picked in the first round out of Washington State (No. 22 overall) said he has to start somewhere and learn the ropes of playing offensive line in the NFL.
“I think it was a good learning experience," said Dillard, listed at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds."More than anything, just going against some of the best D-linemen in the league and just getting more experience as I go, learning the pace of the game and the quality of opponents I’ll be going against in the future, I don’t see this as a negative for me at all. You never really lose. You win, or you learn from it.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh was on the same page as the head coach in evaluating Dillard's first game with extensive minutes.
“I think Andre did a good job stepping in, playing against a really good football player,” Groh said. “He had some good plays and he had some plays I think that he'll learn from as a rookie player. We had some of the same conversations early on about Miles (Sanders). You've seen him grow as a player each and every week, so I think the more he plays the more he'll grow.”
All Pro right tackle Lane Johnson was asked about what he saw in Dillard.
"I'm confident in him," Johnson said at his locker as the Eagles prepared to play Dallas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas where Dillard made his first start. "He reminded me of my rookie year. You're going to make mistakes. but those games you're going to grow from. So the more he plays, the better he's going to be. I have all the confidence in the world in him."
Johnson was asked what it was like for him playing his first NFL game.
"I was nervous as hell," Johnson said with a laugh. "We played in Washington. Mike Vick's back there. That all who I played with in Madden (video). It was a lot of fun. Looking back it's crazy how time flies. It was a big day for us."
Johnson was asked about Dillard's footwork and technique at this stage.
"He's athletic," Johnson said. "He can really do all you want. As he grows and matures he'll get stronger. His anchor will get better. The thing with playing tackles is, you gotta go play. The more he plays, the more experience he gets, the better he's going to be, so that's all he needs."
Johnson was asked how much Peters was in Dillard's ear during the Vikings game.
"A lot, a lot," Johnson said. "He's in my ear too during practice. Just stuff that he sees that we don't get to see from the outside point of view. He's there, he's a big help."
Pederson was asked how confident he is that Dillard will be able to fill-in for Peters for however long he is out.
“That's why we drafted him.” Pederson said. “We have total confidence in Andre. I go back and think about what Big V (Halapoulivaati Vaitai) did his first start. Wasn't perfect. I think about what Andre did last week in Minneapolis. It wasn't perfect. He'll learn from it and get better. He is a tremendous athlete. He's smart. We have a lot of confidence in Andre. The guys around him, he's not on an island obviously, he'll get a lot of help from the guys, starting with Jason Kelce and we go from there.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii