Starting King Dunlap Will Prove Costly for Eagles' Offense

Written By Bob Cunningham On Thursday, October 14, 2010

Notice the location of Dunlap's hands as he kick-steps.

The Eagles announced on Thursday that left tackle Jason Peters underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. That's the good news. The bad news is that Peters will obviously miss a lot of time -- most are optimistically saying 4-6 weeks.

In his place, King Dunlap, a former seventh-round pick, will start at left tackle. And since Michael Vick is still ailing a rib injury and has yet to practice this week, Dunlap will be protecting the blindside of Kevin Kolb.

In case you haven't been watching, Kolb does a good enough job of getting himself sacked and doesn't really need Dunlap's help.

But what Dunlap brings to the table is a guy who is clearly very physically gifted (at about 6'9"), but his technique is -- to say the least -- lacking. Instead of using his astounding height to his advantage, he constantly exposes his chest to the defender and allows much smaller guys to bull-rush him without much of a fight because he's so off balance.

Justin Smith, a guy who has given up his focus on rushing the passer after leaving the 4-3 scheme in Cincinnati to play space-eating defensive end in the 3-4 in San Francisco, absolutely handled Dunlap.

It had nothing to do with quickness because Dunlap was almost always finished with his kick-step by the time he was engaging with Smith. It had nothing to do with raw strength (although Smith clearly had the advantage) because when Dunlap got his hands on Smith, he was usually able to control him.

The problem was all about Dunlap's technique with his hands.

Dunlap, as most left tackles do nowadays, started in a two-point stance (without a hand on the ground). At the snap of the ball, he began his kick-step, but immediately had his hands down at his side like Doc Holliday at the O.K. Corral.

Linemen, and tackles especially, are supposed to have their elbows tucked in at their sides, palms facing the defender, and punch with both hands at chest-height as they kick-step. That way they can get their hands on the defender quickly without having to waste time bringing their hands up from their sides, and also prevent from exposing his chest to the defender.

Unfortunately, Dunlap breaks every cardinal rule far too often and gets himself beat. If Vick were playing, that would be bad enough, but at least Vick is very mobile and would be looking at the defender as he runs past Dunlap.

Kolb, on the other hand, will now have to worry about his blindside being exposed. And as we've seen, when Kolb has to worry about the protection he becomes very shaky and skittish in the pocket. This causes him to press throws, never set his feet, or simply curl up and take sacks.

Needless to say, that will kill any chances of beating the Atlanta Falcons or any other team.

Dunlap could have a bright future, but he's just not ready yet. Instead, Todd Herremans should slide out to left tackle and Reggie Wells should start at left guard. That way, the team's five-best linemen are on the field and Kolb has a lot less to worry about.

And if Kolb has less to worry about, it could give the Birds a chance against an Atlanta team that, at this point, is clearly the best the NFC has to offer.

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