Stefen Wisniewski addition upgrades Eagles’ major weakness
According to Aaron Wilson, former Jacksonville center Stefen Wisniewski just inked a one-year deal with the Eagles. Wisniewski is the second interior offensive lineman Howie Roseman has signed this offseason, after Houston guard Brandon Brooks was added at the start of free agency. The former second-round selection of the Raiders’ is likely to play left guard, as he did as a rookie, with Jason Kelce entrenched in the middle. The combination of Brooks and Wisniewski represent a major upgrade for the Eagles on the interior. After a disastrous 2015 where they were forced to start a mixture of Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, and Andrew Gardner, Philadelphia needed to dip into the free-agent market to add talent at guard.
A contract dispute between LG Evan Mathis and Chip Kelly resulted in the unceremonious release of the Eagles’ best guard prior to the 2015 season. The offensive line never really recovered. The replacement on that side, Allen Barbre, is a journeyman for a reason. He recorded a 58.2 overall grade for the season, ranking 52nd amongst NFL guards and struggling in pass protection, in particular. Overall, he allowed one sack, 10 hits, and 29 hurries for a pass-protection grade of 53.2.
Opposite him, Andrew Gardner’s starting bid was derailed by an injury in Week 3. The early signs were not promising, however, particularly in regards to protecting his QB. Gardner gave up four hits and three hurries in 119 snaps, recording a negative grade in that facet of play. He could hardly have been worse than Matt Tobin (also re-signed by Eagles today), though, who made a strong case for being the worst pass protecting-guard since PFF began grading games. He finished the year dead-last in that facet of play, recording a 30.9 grade. Tobin surrendered 19 QB knockdowns (eight sacks and 11 hits) to go with a further 31 hurries.
The Eagles were aggressive in free agency, adding Brandon Brooks to a slightly-inflated contract once the legal signing period opened. The Texans’ guard didn’t have his best season last year, but will prove a dramatic upgrade on the Eagles’ 2015 starters. Over his three years with over 1,000 snaps, Brooks has allowed just three sacks, 14 hits, and 60 hurries. He finished as our eighth-ranked pass-protector last season, with an 84.4 grade (two sacks, five hits and 19 hurries allowed).
Wisniewski has a similarly-impressive record at keeping his QB upright. He also ranked eighth in pass protection—this time when compared with centers—allowing only two sacks and 11 hurries in 2015. Guards tend to be more exposed to one-on-one matchups in the passing game, adding value to Wisniewski’s solid performance at the position as a rookie. Back in 2011, he allowed just two sacks, five hits, and 18 hurries for the Raiders. Wisniewski may require an adjustment period, considering the fact he hasn’t played guard for a number of years, and is far from guaranteed a starting job, but he is a major upgrade to the depth at LG.