Peters still has more in the tank

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Jack McCaf­fery Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> As the Ea­gles turned into the Doug Ped­er­son era, they were long on ques­tions, but seemed to have at least one ab­so­lute: Ja­son Peters was close to the end.

Al­ready 34, of­ten in­jured and sus­pected of oc­ca­sion­ally be­ing dis­in­ter­ested, the eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle was about to be asked to do even more. First, he would be as­signed to pro­tect the blind side of a quar­ter­back who’d be grad­u­at­ing from mid-ma­jor col­lege foot­ball to a starter in the NFL in a mat­ter of months. Then, he would be asked to pro­vide sta­bil­ity on a line that was fray­ing and about to be cracked, with right tackle Lane John­son due at some point in the sea­son to serve a 10-game sus­pen­sion for a failed per­for­manceen­hanc­ing-drug test.

And he was go­ing to have to do that for his third head coach in five years, with a new of­fense and a new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, all for a team few would ex­pect to con­tend for much. More, he was un­der some mea­sure of an obli­ga­tion to do it at a pace re­flect­ing the $51 mil­lion con­tract he’d ac­cepted, the one tech­ni­cally run­ning through 2018.

At some point, Peters will be in Hall of Fame con­ver­sa­tion, and that could not have hap­pened with­out his abil­ity to han­dle heavy loads. But for that team, at that point in his ca­reer, un­der those con­di­tions, that weight tended to­ward un­rea­son­able. Turns out, it wasn’t. Turns out, Peters would play with jump and pas­sion, would be help­ful to a young Car­son Wentz, would lend sta­bil­ity to the of­fen­sive line and, as such, would be as much a rea­son as any why the Ea­gles would be­come a 5-4 team with rea­son­able play­off ex­pec­ta­tions.

“I’ll tell you what: He’s play­ing ex­tremely well,” Ped­er­son was say­ing Mon­day, dur­ing his reg­u­lar day-after press brief­ing at the NewsCon­trol Com­pound. “For me as a coach and

just know­ing him as long as I have, the proud thing for me is where he is phys­i­cally. He’s in a great po­si­tion right now.”

As re­cently as 2012, the 6-foot-6, 328-pound tackle was at a ca­reer cri­sis point when he shred­ded his Achilles in an off­sea­son work­out, rein­jured do­ing house­hold chores, and needed to miss an en­tire sea­son. Though he re­cov­ered to start all 32 games in 2013 and 2014, he was decaying last sea­son, when a quad in­jury tor­mented him in train­ing camp and back ail­ments fol­lowed. He played just 14 games, with pub­lished re­ports al­leg­ing that he’d taken him­self out of games to pre­serve his own health, aware that the Birds were flop­ping in the fi­nal hours of the failed Chip Kelly ex­per­i­ment.

Then, there was this sea­son.

Then, there was a re­vival.

“I feel re­ally good this year,” Peters said after the Birds’ 24-15 vic­tory Sun­day over the At­lanta Fal­cons. “Coach is tak­ing care of me dur­ing prac­tice. When I’m in, I prac­tice hard all through the week. But I might miss two or three plays dur­ing the week in or­der to keep me fresh for Sun­day. I feel bet­ter than I’ve felt in a while.”

The Ea­gles can ben­e­fit from that new en­ergy, this sea­son and per­haps be­yond. While they loosely fig­ured at some point to shift John­son to the left side, walk away from their fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to Peters and trust Halapouli­vaati Vaitai to re­place John­son, cir­cum­stances have changed. Not only will John­son’s 10 games of in­ac­tiv­ity blunt his ca­reer progress, but he is one failed test away from a two-year sus­pen­sion. And after a jar­ringly poor NFL de­but in Wash­ing­ton, Vaitai has been a re­li­able right tackle.

Should Peters con­tinue to ben­e­fit from a re­newed in­ter­est in hy­dra­tion, nu­tri­tion and ben­e­fi­cial weight gain, he could re­main pro­duc­tive next sea­son. More, since the Ea­gles are com­mit­ted to the devel­op­ment of a quar­ter­back, he could prove vi­tal to the con­tin­ued growth of Wentz.

En­core?

“I don’t know,” Peters said. “I’m just chas­ing the dream that ev­ery­one is, to play this game and get to a Su­per Bowl. I’ve told coach that I’m year-to-year, but I’m not leav­ing un­til I try to get that ring.”

So, he’s try­ing. Sun­day, the Birds rushed for 208 yards, and lim­ited At­lanta to two sacks of Wentz, for a to­tal of 10 yards.

In a year when John­son is missing and Ped­er­son has had to face re­peated of­fen­sive-line ques­tions, that up-front force has been a value. And it has started, and con­tin­ued, with a left tackle thought to be fin­ished.

“I’d love to see him play,” Ped­er­son said, “as long as he can.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ea­gles of­fen­sive left tackle Ja­son Peters, seen in this file photo tan­gling with Detroit Lions de­fen­sive end Devin Taylor, is en­joy­ing a re­birth this year and may be look­ing to play at least an­other year.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Philadel­phia Ea­gles tackle Ja­son Peters (71) mo­tions to­ward the line dur­ing a game against the At­lanta Fal­cons on Sun­day.

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