NFL

Super Bowl LVII: Kelce-Stoutland brain trust, 'cold call' questions and a former Rabbitoh – The key ingredients behind the Eagles' offensive line

By Sports Desk February 10, 2023

For most teams in most NFL seasons, the offensive linemen are not superstars.

Their work of attempting to prevent men of around 300 pounds from breaking into the backfield and trying to create lanes for the ground attack is a remarkably difficult one, but it is not normally one that is conducive to receiving large amounts of attention.

It may, therefore, seem a little bemusing on first blush to see center Jason Kelce with a plethora of cameras pointed in his face ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

Kelce is, of course, playing in special circumstances as he and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce prepare to become the first brothers to go against each other in a Super Bowl.

But the attention is not limited to Kelce. Tackles Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata each gathered a crowd this week at the Eagles' media availability and, as the former heavily emphasised ahead of their clash with the Chiefs on Sunday, being out of the ordinary is a defining trait of this group.

The makeup of the Eagles' offensive line is marked by its level of contrasts. Kelce and Johnson stand as the veteran lynchpins, two perennial All-Pros who have long since set the standard at their respective positions and are destined for the Hall of Fame.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is left tackle Mailata, the Australian former South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league player who was selected in the seventh round of the 2018 draft having never played a single down of American football but blossomed so quickly that he is now the Eagles' undisputed starter at one of the most critical positions on the roster and represents the biggest success story of the NFL's International Player Pathway program.

The stark difference in the journeys of the players anchoring the middle and the right side of the O-Line from that of the unexpected star on the left side is a situation unique to the Eagles. 

But the Eagles have thrived on being unique in 2022. Their multi-faceted offense is unique in how it slows even the strongest and fastest defenses through the way in which Philadelphia utilise their dual-threat quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who has experienced a leap few envisaged in 2022.

And the joy they have experienced on offense has come in large part because the mix of All-Pro veterans, two extremely dependable guards in Landon Dickerson and Isaac Seumalo, and a left tackle who has gone from greenhorn to a foundational piece of the attack has produced a calibre of play up front that no team in the NFL can match.

Indeed, the Eagles rank first in Stats Perform's pass block win rate and second in run block win rate, dominance that can be attributed to the approach of offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, whose distinctive coaching style helps make sure his group are never ill-prepared for any eventuality they might face on gameday.

"He's unique, he makes every meeting like a gameday with his voice," Johnson said of Stoutland.

"He's very loud, he asks a lot of questions, we call those 'cold calling' questions, which is like a pop quiz, a lot of that puts you on the spot, answer questions under duress. 

"He likes to simulate a game-like meeting room, which can be uncomfortable at times but you kind of respect it and you love it."

The numbers illustrate the merits of Stoutland's unconventional brand of coaching.

Johnson ranks second in pass block win rate (89.6 per cent) among offensive linemen with at least 100 total plays, Dickerson is ninth on that same list with a win rate of 83.5 per cent.

Dickerson's pressure rate allowed of 3.9 per cent is the best among all guards, while Kelce (2.0) and Johnson (2.9) rank second in that regard among centers and tackles respectively. 

Seumalo's 7.0 per cent may be less impressive, but it is still average (7.1) for guards this season.

Both Seumalo and Dickerson have unquestionably benefited hugely from playing next to Kelce, whose aggregate win rate across pass protection and run blocking of 83.48 per cent is the second-best in the NFL behind only Laremy Tunsil of the Houston Texans.

In the mind of Seumalo, who is finally solidified as a starter and was named a Pro Bowl alternate following years of persistent injury troubles, both Kelce and Stoutland deserve tremendous credit for how the Eagles' offensive line has coalesced into the elite unit in the NFL.

"To be a good offensive line you need really good players, and then Jeff Stoutland continually puts us in positions to be successful, we stick to our bread and butter and don't try to do too much," Seumalo told Stats Perform. 

"And then on the field Jason Kelce puts us in really good spots. When you have a combination of really good players, really smart players and an offensive line coach that continually puts us in good positions, it’s going to be successful. 

"Jeff Stoutland's work ethic is unmatched in terms of scheming and then knowing how to get guys lined up a certain way and also being ready for a lot of the grey.

"Being like 'let's show them what we expect' and then again, you're always going to get what you didn't see and then being ready to see that kind of stuff too. 

"Sometimes it's going to be tougher than what it should be, the easier and simpler you can make it the better."

Mailata's progress encapsulates Stoutland's ability to make things easy on his players. While he is still far from the finished article in pass protection, giving up a pressure rate of 11 per cent, he has excelled at preventing teams from disrupting the Eagles' ultra-versatile run game.

He has allowed a run disruption rate of 6.6 per cent that is ninth among all offensive tackles to have played at least 200 snaps in 2022, conceding a disruption to a defensive player on only 27 of his 411 run-blocking snaps.

Johnson believes there is much more to come from Mailata and Dickerson, who entered the NFL with the equivalent of a football masters degree having played at Alabama under Nick Saban but has still demonstrated surprisingly quick progress in making the switch from center to guard after suffering a knee ligament injury in his final season with the Crimson Tide.

"You look at it just the size they have with Mailata, Landon, the strength they have is unique," added Johnson.

"There's a lot of boxes they’re checking, which is physically gifted, speed, the more they're playing the better they're getting, they're on their way to be consistent top of the game every year."

Mailata and Dickerson checking those boxes has allowed Hurts and the Eagles' skill position-players to torment opponents who reside in the defensive box, with linebackers consistently crippled by hesitation due to the variety of threats they must account for when reading the Eagles' quarterback at the mesh point with his running back.

Hurts would of course not be able to generate such indecision in the minds of defenders without faith in the ability of his offensive line to hold up.

However, with aggressive defensive lines who get too far upfield in their efforts to pressure Philadelphia's quarterback extremely susceptible to the run, the line's odds of keeping the pass rush at bay are improved by facing defenders who are fighting their natural instincts, with that internal conflict also enabling the Eagles to get their blockers on the front foot in the run game and create chasms for Hurts, Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell to surge through.

"The threat of Jalen, he's become a really good passer this year, his ability to run and get a lot of offense there helps our offense tremendously and then his ability to scramble and make plays for sure is helpful, helps everybody, it’s definitely an advantage," added Seumalo.

In his praise of Hurts, Johnson once again leaned on what appears to be his favourite descriptor of this Eagles' attack.

"Just a unique guy with his strengths," said Johnson. "His ability to run, he's dynamic, so [with the] gameplan, you have to be very crafty with what you do because when the play breaks down he can scramble for 30 yards. Unique player."

Johnson clearly believes Philadelphia's offense, particularly the line, is one of one. Should the Eagles keep a Chiefs defense led by All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones at bay and prevail in Glendale, then there won't be many doubting Stoutland's group deserves recognition as one of the standout offensive lines of the Super Bowl era.

Related items

  • St. Louis City v Colorado Rapids: Carnell desperate for response as winless run persists St. Louis City v Colorado Rapids: Carnell desperate for response as winless run persists

    St. Louis City will be desperate to snap a record six-game winless run in MLS when they host Colorado Rapids at CityPark Stadium on Thursday.

    The Missouri-based side have just three wins from their 17 league matches this term, falling down to 11th in the Western Conference standings.

    Bradley Carnell's men have not triumphed in MLS action since a 3-1 win over Chicago Fire in the middle of May, and were defeated 2-0 by FC Dallas last time out.

    St. Louis coach Carnell referenced injury struggles, however, as his side continue to battle through a troubling period.

    "Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the roster and see where we are. We're not the first team to struggle with this.

    "Now we get challenged and now get to prove what we are as a group, team, organisation and unit – sticking together.

    "We have a plethora of young players who are performing [for our academy] and we will keep some of those guys with us through the week."

    The Rapids have enjoyed a better season, sitting sixth in the West table after returning to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Austin FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

    That ended a four-game winless streak for Colorado, who secured a much-needed victory after a rocketed finish from Cole Bassett before Rafael Navarro netted his 10th goal of the season.

    The next challenge for the Rapids is to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since April, though they have lost three straight on the road.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    St. Louis City – Jared Stroud

    Jared Stroud was involved in a goal in both matches (one goal, one assist) against the Rapids last season.

    The St. Louis man has eight assists to his name in MLS this season, too, and will hope to deliver once more when Colorado come to town.

    Colorado Rapids – Djordje Mihailovic

    Djordje Mihailovic has scored in each of the Rapids' last three away matches.

    He is the first Rapids player to score in three straight away from home in a single regular season since Shkelzen Gashi scored in five straight on the road from June-October 2016.

    MATCH PREDICTION – ST. LOUIS CITY WIN

    St. Louis are the heavy favourites for victory in this encounter, considering their record against the Rapids.

    Carnell's side collected four points from their two matches against Colorado last season, including a 2-0 win at home last July.

    Colorado have lost their last three road matches, conceding 10 goals in those games, and that run of form comes as no surprise.

    Indeed, the Rapids have lost 15 of their last 21 away from home in all competitions (W3 D3), dating back to last May.

    Yet a home win is by no means a foregone conclusion.

    St. Louis are winless in six straight matches (D2 L4) for the first time in club history. They have just three wins so far, tied for the fewest in MLS this season, though all three have come at home.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    St. Louis City win – 48.8%

    Colorado Rapids win – 25.5%

    Draw – 25.7%

  • Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing

    Francisco Conceicao proved the hero on his first competitive appearance for Portugal after his stoppage-time winner snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

    Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in the European Championship's 64-year history to appear in six editions, but his landmark moment was overshadowed by a glimpse into Portugal's future.

    Conceicao was introduced after 90 minutes and scored just two minutes later, capitalising on a loose ball to send Portugal level on points with leaders Turkiye, who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday in Group F.

    Robin Hranac's unavoidable own-goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's rocketed second-half opener before Conceicao announced himself on the international stage at the Leipzig Stadium.

    Roberto Martinez's team were the only side to win every qualifying game for this tournament, with a perfect 10 wins from as many matches, and dominated the first half of their opener without reward.

    Ronaldo almost marked his landmark appearance with a goal just eight minutes in but rushed an unmarked header in uncharacteristic fashion from Rafael Leao's whipped cross.

    Bruno Fernandes angled a deflected long-range effort narrowly over as the one-way traffic persisted, before the Manchester United midfielder's teasing ball just evaded the lunging Leao.

    Fernandes was again the architect when his delicate throughball found Ronaldo, who was denied by Jindrich Stanek's fantastic stop from point-blank range.

    The Czechia goalkeeper was on hand once more before the interval, parrying away another fizzing Ronaldo strike as these two sides were the first to be goalless at half-time at Euro 2024.

    Portugal completed 368 passes in that first-half onslaught, their most on record in a single half at the European Championships since records began in 1980, and little changed after the break.

    Ronaldo tested the hands of Stanek with a dipping free-kick just before the hour, though Portugal were stunned soon after when Provod cannoned into the top-left corner from the perimeter of Diogo Costa's area.

    Yet a response swiftly followed as Stanek parried Leao's downwards back-post header against Hranac, who could only deflect into his own net to level proceedings.

    Diogo Jota had a late finish ruled out by VAR after Ronaldo was adjudged offside before his rebounded strike, though Conceicao pounced from Pedro Neto's half-cleared left-wing cross to snatch all three points.

    Substitute heroics save Ronaldo's landmark appearance

    Ronaldo already holds the record for the most appearances in European Championship history (26), though this outing marked another historic moment for the 39-year-old.

    Having featured at every Euros since his 2004 debut, Ronaldo is the first to go to six editions of the tournament, where his 14 goals make him the leading scorer in history.

    The former Manchester United attacker could not add to his tally here, and it was a familiar tale at the Euros for Ronaldo, who missed the 2016 final victory over France after his gut-wrenching injury.

    Eder stepped up as the extra-time hero on that occasion, and he was the last Portugal substitute to score at the Euros before Conceicao did so here.

    Conceicao's goal came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal since Ferran Torres for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds) – what an introduction for the Porto man.

    Czech need more from Schick

    Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia's six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a European Championship tournament – after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition (five goals).

    The forward has since lifted the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen last term, helping Xabi Alonso's side to an unbeaten league season with seven top-flight goals.

    Considering his record at the Euros and the 2023-24 trophy-winning campaign, Czechia may want more from their star striker – who was withdrawn on the hour after being cautioned and failing to manage a single shot.

    Yet with or without Schick, Czechia could have never prepared for Conceicao's late intervention. Ivan Hasek's side have now lost five straight games against Portugal and must bounce back when they face Georgia on Saturday.

  • Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Seleaco on Ronaldo's landmark outing Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Seleaco on Ronaldo's landmark outing

    Francisco Conceicao proved the hero on his first competitive start for Portugal after his stoppage-time winner snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

    Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in the European Championship's 64-year history to appear in six editions, but his landmark moment was overshadowed by a glimpse into Portugal's future.

    Conceicao was introduced after 90 minutes and scored just two minutes later, capitalising on a rebound to send Portugal level on points with leaders Turkiye, who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday in Group F.

    Robin Hranac's unavoidable own-goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's rocketed second-half opener before Conceicao announced himself on the international stage at the Leipzig Stadium.

    Roberto Martinez's team were the only side to win every qualifying game for this tournament, with a perfect 10 wins from as many matches, and dominated the first half of their opener without reward.

    Ronaldo almost marked his landmark appearance with a goal just eight minutes in but rushed an unmarked header in uncharacteristic fashion from Rafael Leao's whipped cross.

    Bruno Fernandes angled a deflected long-range effort narrowly over as the one-way traffic persisted, before the Manchester United midfielder's teasing ball just evaded the lunging Leao.

    Fernandes was again the architect when his delicate throughball found Ronaldo, who was denied by Jindrich Stanek's fantastic stop from point-blank range.

    The Czechia goalkeeper was on hand once more before the interval, parrying away another fizzing Ronaldo strike as these two sides were the first to be goalless at half-time at Euro 2024.

    Portugal completed 368 passes in that first-half onslaught, their most on record in a single half at the European Championships since records began in 1980, and little changed after the break.

    Ronaldo tested the hands of Stanek with a dipping free-kick just before the hour, though Portugal were stunned soon after when Provod cannoned into the top-left corner from the perimeter of Diogo Costa's area.

    Yet a response swiftly followed as Stanek parried Leao's downwards back-post header against Hranac, who could only deflect into his own net to level proceedings.

    Diogo Jota had a late finish ruled out by VAR after Ronaldo was adjudged offside before his rebounded finish, though Conceicao pounced from Pedro Neto's left-wing cross to snatch all three points.

    Substitute heroics save Ronaldo's landmark appearance

    Ronaldo already holds the record for the most appearances in European Championship history (26), though this outing marked another historic moment for the 39-year-old.

    Having featured at every Euros since his 2004 debut, Ronaldo is the first to go to six editions of the tournament, where his 14 goals make him the leading scorer in history.

    The former Manchester United attacker could not add to his tally here, and it was a familiar tale at the Euros for Ronaldo, who missed the 2016 final victory over France after his gut-wrenching injury.

    Eder stepped up as the extra-time hero on that occasion, and he was the last Portugal substitute to score at the Euros before Conceicao did so here.

    Conceicao's goal came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal since Ferran Torres for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds) – what an introduction for the Porto man.

    Czech need more from Schick

    Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia's six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a European Championship tournament – after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition (five goals).

    The forward has since lifted the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen last term, helping Xabi Alonso's side to an unbeaten league season with seven top-flight goals.

    Considering his record at the Euros and the 2023-24 trophy-winning campaign, Czechia may want more from their star striker – who was withdrawn on the hour after being cautioned and failing to manage a single shot.

    Yet with or without Schick, Czechia could have never prepared for Conceicao's late intervention. Ivan Hasek's side have now lost five straight games against Portugal and must bounce back when they face Georgia on Saturday.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.