Dillard set for his first start at left tackle

Ed Benkin
October 18, 2019 - 7:02 pm
Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Andre Dillard (77) looks on from the players bench during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round, expecting him to one day be the replacement for Jason Peters.  

For at least one week, the future has arrived early. 

Peters is sidelined with a knee injury, so the rookie left tackle will get his first start on Sunday against the Cowboys in Dallas. Dillard has already seen game action this fall, but this will be his first start of 2019. 

One might think it could be a bit overwhelming for the rookie, but Dillard says he hasn't changed his approach during practice this week.

"It feels pretty much the same," said Dillard. "The whole year, I've always been ready and been preparing like I'm going to play. When I played last week, I wasn't surprised or anything. I just prepared the same way I do every single week."

While Peters wasn't ruled out until Friday afternoon, the Eagles have been preparing for Dillard to step in on Sunday. Head coach Doug Pederson and the rest of the staff have had their share of conversations with Dillard to prepare him for his first start.  

Pederson compared the preparation to when the first time tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai was forced to step in as a starter.

"I go back to how we handled Big V in his first start down in Washington a few years ago," Pederson said. "Same way. You don't want to clutter his mind. You want him to be as free as he can be and let him use his ability to play." 

Dillard didn't start last week in Minnesota, but was rushed into duty early due to the injury to Peters. He's had his share of struggles in the game but also believes there were positives in his performance.  

The rookie has also spent plenty of time going over game film and believes he will be able to fix any issues as he prepares for Sunday's game. 

"Its on the film," said Dillard. "I feel like spatial awareness and quickness and getting where I need to be was pretty good. There is obviously things to work on with my game, so I'm just working at that every week."

Dillard will have to correct his mistakes in a hurry; this is the biggest game of the year on the young season for the Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line. 

Dillard has big shoes to fill when it comes to stepping in for Peters, but the veteran left tackle has been like a coach for Dillard all week during practice sessions.

"He's been a great mentor," Dillard said. "He's been a great teacher, mentor, big brother figure for me since I got here. I've learned so much as a player just from being around him and talking to him all the time and picking his brain here and there. There's just a lot of useful things that I've learned as a player and as a person."