The Philadelphia Eagles signed offensive lineman Jordan Mailata to a four-year $64 million contract extension. The lofty investment signals that the front office is committed to the second-year left tackle, and protecting quarterback Jalen Hurts. Mailata’s path to the top of the depth chart is improbable, especially considering the player he beat out to earn the starting nod.
Andre Dillard has been a disappointment for the Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles selected Andre Dillard with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Widely regarded as one of college football’s top offensive linemen at Washington State, Dillard garnered plenty of attention from NFL scouts.
The former Cougars standout possessed several skills that teams look for in a potential anchor on the offensive line. His agility and quick hands at the point of attack led to him being a solid pass protector at the college level. According to Pro Football Focus, Dillard ranked No. 6 in the draft class in pass-blocking efficiency on third downs.
On the flip side, the Woodinville, Washington native struggled in the run game. He ranked No. 30 in the draft class in run-block success percentage.
The Eagles drafted Dillard to be the next great offensive lineman in Philadelphia. He projected as a left tackle but ended up behind nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters on the depth chart. The team was forced to start the rookie at right tackle, and it was a disaster. He missed his sophomore season due to injury.
Dillard still has two years left on his rookie contract, so the Eagles have a decision to make. They can trade the former first-rounder and see what value they can get in return, or they can try to develop him into something more than a backup.
Either way, general manager Howie Roseman has to be questioning the pick.
Jordan Mailata earned the Eagles’ starting left tackle spot
The franchise’s uncertainty about Dillard opened the door for Jordan Mailata’s breakout. The Eagles drafted Mailata in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The 24-year-old offensive lineman had no football experience before arriving in Philadelphia. He was just a rugby player from Sydney, Australia. Mailata was a member of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, introducing him to NFL scouts.
The Australian tackle started 10 games for the Eagles in the 2020 season and gained valuable experience. Those live game reps gave Mailata an edge heading into 2021.
The 6-foot-8 big man entered training camp expecting to compete with Andre Dillard for the starting left tackle spot. However, his teammate didn’t pose much of a threat, and Mailata ran away with the position, according to The Athletic.
The former rugby star is now entrenched as the starting left tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. “Excited to be here for another four years representing this team and city,” said Mailata per a video on the Eagles’ Twitter.
The team has made a bold commitment to the young tackle, expecting him to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
Mailata may become Jalen Hurts’ new best friend in 2021
After starting four games for the Eagles in 2020, Jalen Hurts enters his first full season as the team’s starting quarterback. There are many questions concerning how this offense will look and whether or not Hurts can be a franchise quarterback.
Jordan Mailata will play an integral role in Hurts’ success or failure. The Eagles are in a rebuilding phase, so locking up a potential anchor on the offensive line appears to be a good move.
Pro Football Focus predicted Mailata to be the NFL’s biggest breakout offensive tackle for the 2021 season. “He’s improved by leaps and bounds every single year,” said PFF analyst Michael Renner. “Forced into a starting role last year, he earned an admirable 70.3 overall grade on 733 snaps.”
Mailata’s sheer size makes him an imposing presence, and it showed on the field as well. Philadelphia’s offensive line features three players over 30, and the left tackle brings much-needed youth to the unit.
If Mailata takes the massive leap that many and projected for him, the Philadelphia Eagles may have one of the league’s best offensive lines. That would bode well for Jalen Hurts, who has a chance to prove doubters wrong in 2021.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.