Left tackle Demetress Bell was signed this offseason to stand in for Pro Bowler Jason Peters after he went down with an offseason Achilles injury. The success of the offensive line is critical for ensuring success for the Philadelphia Eagles this season, and after just one preseason game the Birds decided that change was needed.
During Saturday’s walk through, the towering King Dunlap (6’9, 330) was given the thumbs up to take the starting left tackle position in practice. Tim McManus reports that neither Bell nor Dunlap received an explanation as to the change.
Bell took the news in stride, saying
“No it’s not surprising. It is what it is. If that’s what the coaches say then that’s what it is. It’s not my job to sit there and coach. It’s my job to just play.”
Bell played only 6 snaps in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Steelers but had an unimpressive outing. In fact, he may have been a key reason why Vick injured his thumb. Sheil Kapadia outlined in Birds 24/7 what happened during the play.
The problem was that Steelers linebacker Chris Carter went around Demetress Bell and would have sacked Vick had he set his feet that deep in the pocket. So he stepped up, and when he finally threw the football, he was at the 18-yard line, just 4 yards behind the original line of scrimmage and in a crowd of linemen.
This is something offensive line coach Howard Mudd talked about earlier in training camp.
“The only thing that we really stress is the depth of the pocket because Mike isn’t really tall,” Mudd said. “So when he gets to his throwing spot, the more separation you can have between the original line and Mike is really important, so that he feels, ‘Oh, there’s a bunch of space here, I can see, I can deliver.’ That’s a real critical part of it.”
For their part, the Eagles are downplaying the change, saying that Dunlap and Bell are and have always been in active competition for the position. Per head coach Andy Reid,
King’s been with us awhile and he deserves that opportunity, and Demetress has done a good job, he’s worked hard. He’s doing fine. I just want to make sure that everybody has their shot there.
Dunlap has seven starts in his NFL career — three at left tackle, three at right tackle and one at left guard–and his re-signing with Philadelphia this offseason showed that the team was committed to having Dunlap at the very least help add some depth to the offensive line. But he was told that he would have the opportunity to compete for a starting job and that’s exactly what Dunlap is fighting to do.
My goal since I’ came here was to be a starter, so I’ve had the same mentality since Day 1 of my rookie year to now, just come out and get better every day and try to work my tail off to become one of the starting five.