PHILADELPHIA – Entering last season’s training camp, Andre Dillard was expected to be the Eagles’ left tackle, replacing Jason Peters as the person tasked with protecting the quarterback’s blindside. After all, Dillard was taken by the Eagles in the first round of the 2019 draft, appeared in all 16 games of his rookie season, starting in four of them. He was looking forward to cement himself as the left tackle of the future as a second-year player.
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However, Dillard’s focus on the 2020 season changed after he suffered a biceps tear and forcing him to miss the rest of the year. Standing on the sidelines, Dillard wore an apparatus on his arm and watched as someone played in the spot he thought he would be stationed. Now, a year later and fully recovered from his injury, Dillard finds himself back and taking part in training camp once again.
“It’s nice to be out on the field again after almost a whole year of not being out here because of my arm and stuff,” Dillard said. “I think it’s been really good. Knock the rust off the first day or two and just rolling.”
However, instead of being the heir apparent to Peters like he was supposed to be, he finds himself competing with one of the players who filled in for him: Jordan Mailata.
The two offensive linemen have been taking turns lining up with the first-team offense, each trying to prove that they are the right man for the job. Dillard said that even though the two are fighting for the job, he will only focus on his own game.
“I’m just thinking about right now and being in the moment right,” Dillard said. “I’m looking at what I can do right now to control the situation and focus on what I can control. Not what anyone else thinks and not what anyone else is doing unless they are on the other side of the ball.”
For Mailata, fighting for a job is nothing new. The 2018 seventh-round draft pick was placed on injured reserve during his first two NFL seasons before stepping in at left tackle in 2020. Mailata said his approach would not change, stating he was more worried about being on the roster before worrying about a starting role.
“Every year has been a competition for me,” Mailata said. “First thing for me is to just to make this team. It’s always been my approach, and it always will be going forward. That’s the God’s honest truth.”
Tuesday’s practice will be the first time the Eagles will put pads on, allowing both Dillard and Mailata to have a chance to show what they can do, trying to show that they will not only be physical in run blocking but agile and quick enough to keep Eagles defenders from getting to the quarterback.
“The real competition starts tomorrow when the pads come on,” Mailata said. “Every day, we both come to work and give the best that we can. I feel like we both are giving each other a good bargain for our money. It’s been a good competition between Dillard and me.”
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