During the offseason, we’ll be taking a close look at Philadelphia Eagles players of interest who are currently on the roster, but maybe we don’t know a lot about them just yet. Today we’ll look at left tackle Andre Dillard.
Previously published player reviews
Andre Dillard is heading into his fourth season with the Eagles after they selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. In his time in Philly, Dillard has only started nine games. The Eagles had a decision to make this offseason on whether or not to exercise Dillard’s fifth-year option, which they declined. That was the correct choice, in my opinion.
Dillard had a bad rookie season (and not just at RT) in 2019, before being lost for the season in 2020 with a torn biceps. He entered 2021 training camp in a competition with Jordan Mailata for the starting LT job, but it was crystal clear after only a small handful of practices that Mailata was going to run away with the job.
Dillard started five games at LT in 2021 (two in relief of an injured Mailata, two when Lane Johnson was out with his personal issue, and the meaningless Week 18 game against the Cowboys). It has just sort of been accepted as truth that Dillard played well whenever he was called upon to fill in. I was curious to take a closer look, however, so, you know, I watched him. 💡
First, a game-by-game review
• Week 3 at Dallas: Dillard filled in for an injured Mailata at LT. He saw some Micah Parsons, some Randy Gregory, and some other JAGs. While Parsons and Gregory are both good edge rushers, they are also speed guys, who are more favorable matchups for the athletic Dillard. He was rarely tested with power rushes, which was surprising from a Dallas game plan perspective.
Dillard was a major concern heading into this matchup, and while he could have helped open up bigger gains on some screen plays, he did his job in pass protection and played well enough that he wasn’t a reason the Eagles lost this game. We reviewed this game by Dillard during the 2021 season, and gave him high marks. It remains the best game of his career.
• Week 4 vs. Chiefs: Dillard filled in for an injured Mailata once again. With Frank Clark out, Dillard mostly worked against backups like Mike Danna and Alex Okafor. Danna had two sacks while working against Dillard in this game. We should note that when we assigned blame for each of the Eagles’ 32 sacks allowed in 2021, we did not put either Danna sack on Dillard because we felt that other players were more at fault on each individual play. However, he also wasn’t blameless.
Dillard faced off just once against Chris Jones, who overpowered him. Otherwise, the Chiefs mainly had Jones working against Jack Driscoll, who started at RT. Overall, this was not a good performance by Dillard, and at times he looked lethargic, in my opinion. If potential trade suitors watch this game, I believe that many will be out on him.
• Week 5 vs. Panthers: Mailata returned to the starting lineup, but he started at RT in place of Lane Johnson, who was away from the team with his personal issue. Dillard started once again at LT, because, well, we’ve seen him at RT in the past and that hasn’t gone well. Solid game. He saw a healthy dose of a pair of speed rushers in Brian Burns and Haason Reddick (again, favorable for Dillard’s skill set), and he mostly did his job.
• Week 6 vs. Buccaneers: Dillard saw a lot Shaq Barrett in this game. While Dillard didn’t give up any sacks, Barrett beat him for what should have been a sack, but Jalen Hurts was able to escape. There were other pressures allowed as well. Throughout the second half, Hurts was basically running to his right, away from Dillard’s side, almost immediately after the snap. I think Hurts was probably quite relieved by the return of Johnson the next week.
• Week 7 at Raiders: When Lane Johnson went down in this game, Dillard filled in at LT, while Mailata moved over to RT. That is especially noteworthy, because it’s one thing to start Dillard at LT and Mailata at RT to begin a game, but to shuffle the line like that, in-game, is out of the ordinary for the Eagles. That they moved Mailata to the right side, in-game, is telling about what Jeff Stoutland truly thinks of Dillard’s ability to play on the right side.
Anyway, Dillard played 11 snaps in this game. He gave up a sack to Yannick Ngakoue as well as a pressure to Carl Nassib that should have been a sack. It was a short, bad performance.
• Week 8 at Lions: Dillard played 14 snaps in mop up duty in a blowout. I didn’t watch those.
• Week 18 vs. Cowboys: I thought this was Dillard’s most energetic performance of the season, as he was more active and more aggressive as a run blocker than he had shown in earlier games. In pass protection he was just OK, as he was pushed back into the pocket on a few occasions. He was put on roller skates back into Gardner Minshew’s lap on one play that led to a sack.
In summary, Dillard did not play as well in 2021 as I had previously perceived.
I also cut up video of what I saw in Dillard’s play:
• Athleticism: Dillard’s strength is his quick feet, and his general athleticism. When tasked with blocking speedier rushers, he does a good job of mirroring and matching them. Still, even though Dillard almost exclusively faced edge rushers build more for speed than power in 2021, Dillard was beaten frequently.
• Anchoring: Dillard simply couldn’t anchor when he played in 2019, as we documented at length during the 2020 offseason. He did not face any true power rushers in 2021, but when pass rushers attempted power rushes, they had success. I do think this is an area where Dillard has improved, however. (It would have been hard to have gotten worse.)
• Screen game: Dillard looks like a natural running down the field out in front of screens. Unfortunately, he rarely actually blocks anyone. He’ll occasionally get in the way of a defensive back, but never looks bury them. This may be the most disappointing aspect of Dillard’s game, because he has all the traits to be outstanding in the screen game, but he doesn’t seem to have any sort of killer instinct.
• Run game: More of the same. Dillard does a really good job of getting to the second level or pulling either to the outside or across the formation, but when he reaches his target, he does so with no authority. Defenders shed his blocks with ease in the open field. When tasked with blocking defensive linemen, Dillard has the athleticism to execute reach blocks, but a stalemate is a win for him. He’s gets in the way of bigger defenders, but doesn’t move them. Some have wondered if Dillard could move inside to guard. No way. Some of the nastier DTs in the league would eat him alive in there.
• Play demeanor: There are moments where Dillard just stops playing on certain plays. My perception is that he seems to have an internal clock in his head on how long he thinks a play should go, and when that clock expires, he stands and watches instead of playing through the whistle. There’s also very little emotion in Dillard’s game. He rarely celebrates with teammates on the field after big plays or scores, and he has unlively body language at the conclusion of plays. I’m not necessarily knocking him for that — it’s just an observation. But if given the choice between no emotion and some emotion, I’d like for my left tackle to play with some emotion and enthusiasm.
Dillard’s 2022 outlook with the Eagles
There isn’t really a good fit for Dillard as a starter with the Eagles going forward. Mailata will be the starting LT for the foreseeable future, and Lane Johnson is coming off an All-Pro season at RT. Dillard has shown so far in his career that he can only play LT, so he doesn’t really even have value to the Eagles as a swing tackle.
At the 2022 NFL Combine, Howie Roseman pushed back against the idea that Dillard can’t play RT, however, as noted above, when Johnson was missing for several games during the 2021 season, Mailata started at RT and Dillard filled in at LT. The Eagles have shown in the past that they would much rather substitute an offensive lineman off the bench directly for the injured/missing player instead of having multiple positional changes along the line. They made an exception with Dillard, even in-game.
Offensive line depth is kind of a big deal in the NFL, though, as we have seen with this Eagles team, and who knows — the 2022 Eagles could maybe be contenders. If they almost certainly weren’t, it would be an easy decision to take, saaaayyyy, a fourth-round pick for Dillard. But the 2022 season has value, and thus, so does Dillard to this team, and the Eagles shouldn’t be quick to trade him, even with his many glaring flaws. After all, it’s not as if the Eagles have an obviously good answer at tackle on their bench otherwise.
If I’m Roseman, I’m probably not settling for anything less than a third-round pick for Dillard. At the same time, if I were the GM of some other team around the league in need of a left tackle, I’m probably not paying that price for a player that has overrated upside and high continued bust potential.
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