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Tyler Steen settling into backup life


Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

PHILADELPHIA – Before the 2021 season the Eagles embarked on a legitimate competition at left tackle between Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata.

Dillard got one day with the first-team reps and Mailata got the next with the rotation continuing each and every day until Dillard, now the projected starting LT in Tennessee, was injured and Mailata secured the job, ultimately emerging as one of the best young left tackles in the NFL.

The foreshadowing of competition at right guard this year after Isaac Seumalo left in free agency for Pittsburgh conjured up memories of Dillard vs. Mailata for those of us who covered it but no such competition emerged.

Second-year pro Cam Jurgens got the first rep at RG and took every single one since with the lone caveat being when he would move to center when the Eagles would give some-in-practice maintenance to Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. In those such instances, which were rare, Jurgens would be flanked by rookie third-round pick Tyler Steen to his right with Jack Driscoll handling right tackle.

In hindsight, expecting Steen to move from college tackle inside to guard at the pro level and push a natural interior player with a year head start was pie-in-the-sky thinking.

The minute Jeff Stoutland started cross-training Steen at both RG and his more natural position of left tackle that he played at Alabama was essentially confirmation of the end of a competition that never got started.

These days the third-round pick is back getting reps at second-team right guard after a number of days working as the second-team LT.

Stoutland has not been shy about unconventional routes to fill the game-day backup slots. Most teams have a swing tackle and interior backup on the 46-man roster and perhaps also dress an eighth lineman as a wild card. Last season Dillard was the backup on the left side and Driscoll on the right with Jurgens dressed in case Kelce needed a replacement.

Steen spoke about the cross-training earlier this week.

“It can be difficult at times just because it’s two different positions and having to go back and forth and adjusting and using different techniques and stuff like that,” the rookie admitted. “But I feel like that just takes time, a little bit of time just to get used to playing two different positions.”

Getting comfortable is ultimately the goal and some handle movement easily like Seumalo and others need a lot of work when they are taken out of their natural position like Dillard.

“It’s still on the offensive line but there’s different subtleties that come with [different positions] and different things that you see pre- and post-snap,” Steen said. “So I think it just takes time and reps and after a while, you just get more comfortable.”

The Eagles will cut from 90 to 53 on Aug. 29 and the projection right now is that Driscoll and Steel could be the main game-day backups with Jurgens moving to center if that domino is needed.

In that instance, Steen might even have to be ready to play more positions.

“I feel like whatever the team asks me to do, I feel like I’m pretty confident that I could get the hang of it and adjust and be able to do that,” Steen said.

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