Philadelphia Eagles: Offensive Line Has Been Unsung Heroes of Winning Streak

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IDecember 12, 2013

Nov 17, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Todd Herremans (79) center Jason Kelce (62) and guard Evan Mathis (69) line up during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Redskins 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles' current five-game winning streak has been remarkable, to say the least. The team was 3-5 and coming off consecutive divisional home losses, and Chip Kelly's heavily documented offense had sputtered.

Since then, Nick Foles has turned into arguably the hottest quarterback in the league outside of Peyton Manning, and the defense is gelling under defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

Lost in the recent success has been the play of the offensive line, a unit that can hold its own against any in the business.

Left to right, Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, and Lane Johnson form a tremendous front five. All are signed through at least 2014. They've played in a combined 65 of 65 games this season. That stint of durability is a major reason why the Eagles rank first in the NFL in rushing offense and third in total offense.

In the last five games, Philly's offense has really showcased its talent. The team has averaged 31 points and 428 yards per contest, beginning with Foles' record-setting performance against the Oakland Raiders.

The recent dominance of Peters has coincided with the Eagles' hot streak. Peters, who missed the entire 2012 season recovering from a pair of Achilles injuries, wasn't himself back in September. The six-time Pro Bowler allowed a whopping 23 hurries in the season's first eight games, a figure that actually placed Peters among the worst pass-blocking tackles in the game.

Since then, the big left tackle has been phenomenal.

Dec 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tackle Jason Peters (71) battles Detroit Lions defensive end Devin Taylor (92) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY S

He's surrendered just two hurries in the last five games. Against Detroit, he registered his finest rating of the season, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Peters held Ezekiel Ansah, the fifth overall selection in this year's draft, to no hurries or QB hits. As a run-blocker, Peters was instrumental in the success of LeSean McCoy and Chris Polk, helping the duo combine for 267 rushing yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns on 33 carries.

Meanwhile, Johnson has really shown growth as the team's starting right tackle. The fourth overall pick of this year's draft, Johnson was made for Kelly's offense. He's an incredible athlete, and the Eagles have utilized him in the slot receiver position at times this season. Johnson really struggled in pass protection early on, allowing 29 hurries and seven sacks in the first eight games.

During the five-game winning streak, he's allowed just three QB hurries. That's an unbelievable turnaround, and it gives the Eagles the most athletic offensive tackle duo in the business.

At left guard, Mathis has been his usual elite self. He's the best interior lineman in the NFL, and the numbers back that up. Pro Football Focus rates Mathis as the top overall guard for the third consecutive season, and by a wide margin. Mathis' plus-36.6 rating is nearly 50 percent higher than that of Josh Sitton, PFF's second-rated guard.

Dec 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Todd Herremans (79) and guard Evan Mathis (69) celebrate a touchdown by running back Chris Polk (32) against the Detroit Lions during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Cr
Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY S

Kelce is an undersized center who was a steal as a sixth-round pick two years ago. He's bounced back admirably from a serious knee injury last season. PFF rates Kelce as the ninth-best overall center, and if not for an awful game against the New York Giants (when Kelce clearly had an injured hand), he would rank third at his position. He's probably the best screen-blocker of all NFL centers, and he's due for a contract extension next summer.

Herremans has seen his struggles in 2013, as he rates below average at his position. He's surrendered a multitude of pressures and sacks this season. To be fair, though, he's the oldest of the linemen and his injury last year (dislocated bone and ligament damage to his right foot) was pretty severe.

Before his injury, Herremans had been a model of consistency since being drafted in 2005, and he will likely regain his form by next year. As a group, the Eagles' line is poised to keep this team competitive for a long time.

If Johnson can continue developing his skills as a pass-blocker, he and Peters will push for the best tackle duo in the league. The front five as a whole deserves all the credit in the world for the breakout season of second-year QB Foles.

The five linemen rank as easily the best run-blocking unit, per PFF, and they're steadily improving in terms of protecting their quarterback. And considering the Eagles may be hosting another Snow Bowl in January, this is a team that could live and die by its line.