In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. After carefully tracking the best offensive lines in the NFL all season, O'Hara is revisiting the O-line performance of the group that won the Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year Award: the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Philadelphia Eagles are hoping to topple the Patriots in Super Bowl LII on Sunday and finally bring home the Lombardi Trophy -- something that has escaped the city of Brotherly Love. If they are able to pull it off, it will be in large part because of the play of their offensive line, and the depth that allowed the unit to overcome the loss of an All-Pro-caliber left tackle in Week 7. Their ability to deal with that huge injury -- plus a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who was an MVP candidate when he went down -- along with their multi-dimensional rushing attack put the Eagles' athleticism on display all season. Being a versatile group in the run game and consistently shutting out some of the best pass rushers is why the Eagles are this year's Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year.
The Eagles won the Offensive Line of the Week award four times during the regular season, more than any other group. (Only three other teams -- Dallas, New Orleans and Pittsburgh -- were repeat winners this season.) Remarkably, Philly's four winning weeks featured matchups against some of the toughest defenses and most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL. In Week 4, the Eagles traveled to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers and racked up 214 rushing yards while pitching a shutout against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, as the line allowed zero sacks and one QB hit to the dynamic duo, according to Pro Football Focus. The domination was on full display as they closed the game out with a 13-play drive that drained the nearly 7 minutes remaining on the clock, and the Eagles never had to put their defense back on the field. The drive was highlighted by eight combined runs by Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and closer LeGarrette Blount.
The following week, the Eaglesblasted the Arizona Cardinals by hitting pay dirt on their first three possessions and nearly shutting out the Cardinals' pass rush despite losing Lane Johnson for the second half. In Week 9, the Eaglesthrottled the Denver Broncos, rushing for 197 yards, while the starting five offensive linemen did not give up a single sack or QB hit to Von Miller and Co. And in Week 11 against division-rival Dallas, the Eagles racked up 215 rushing yards and didn't allow a single sack despite facing the NFL's sack leader at the time, DeMarcus Lawrence.
On a grander scale, this unit helped the offense finish third in scoring, third in rushing, fifth in plays of at least 20 yards and first in red-zone offense. Interestingly, the rushing attack was just as explosive as the Eagles' passing game, yet it doesn't seem to get the same amount of credit. Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount were a great one-two punch and a major factor in Philadelphia leading the league in runs of at least 10 yards (56).
This group is the most versatile and athletic, so it's time we give its members some individual love:
Halapoulivaati Vaitai (LT) was given a huge task in Week 7 when nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters went down with an injury. Before he was injured, Peters only allowed one sack and no QB hits in 423 snaps. Although Vaitai struggled early on, he's played well since Week 16, having not allowed a single sack in his last four games (including playoffs).
Stefen Wisniewski (LG) became a full-time starter in Week 3 and was fantastic on screens and out in space against linebackers. The second-year Eagle allowed just one sack and he committed one penalty, and did a great job solidifying the left guard spot. He and Kelce have also been fantastic with combo blocks, one of the many reasons for Philly's success in the run game.
Jason Kelce (C) had one of his best seasons and was rewarded by earning All-Pro honors for the first time. Along with it, he was named the highest-graded run-blocker of any lineman in the league by PFF. Kelce led the Eagles in snaps played (1,208) this season and only gave up two sacks. One of Kelce's best attributes is his ability to reach the second level, as well as in screens and blocking in space.
Brandon Brooks (RG) was named to this year's Pro Bowl after a dominant performance in 2017. He kept defenders from getting to his quarterbacks regularly and became the fourth guard in the last 10 years to not allow a single sack in a season. He's become a premier right guard.
Lane Johnson's (RT) athleticism allows him to be one of the best pass blockers in the league. He was labeled by PFF as the fifth-best pass-blocking tackle in the regular season after allowing just three sacks and four hits. Johnson has become one of the most dominant lockdown right tackles, teaming with Brooks to make the right side this unit's strength, with Peters sidelined. That enables the offense to give help in other areas.