Matt Pryor ready to step in for Eagles

Eliot Shorr-Parks
July 02, 2020 - 7:44 am

In an offseason that has been far different than any before, spent mostly inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workout last month at the NovaCare Complex finally felt close to a normal offseason day. 

“It was a couple of the O-Line,” right guard Matt Pryor said. “Me, (Jordan) Mailata, Isaac (Seumalo), (Jason) Kelce, (Andre) Dillard”

Then, at the end of a 60-yard sprint, the outlook on the upcoming season changed dramatically for Pryor, Brandon Brooks and the Eagles’ offensive line. 

“He knew right off the bat,” Pryor said of Brooks, who was also working out with the group. “At first he kind of slowed down. I looked to see, asked if he was good, and he said ‘I just tore my Achilles.’”

The injury to Brooks changed a lot for the Eagles moving forward. It means another offensive linemen might be needed. It might mean the return of Jason Peters. 

For Pryor, it means he went from being a backup in 2020, stuck behind an All-Pro, to potentially the starting right guard entering Week 1, a role he has been preparing for the last two seasons. 

The good news is that Pryor, 6-foot-7, 332 pounds, has experience stepping in for Brooks before. The former sixth-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft was forced into action last season in the team’s Wild Card loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Pryor played 64 snaps against the Seahawks that game, by far the most action he has gotten since joining the Eagles. Pryor played well considering it was his first start, allowing four pressures in 64 snaps against a good Seattle defensive line. 

Although the Eagles lost, the game gave Pryor a chance to see where he was at after two seasons with the team.  

“It really gave me a baseline on where I am at as young player,” Pryor said. “In practice, I am going against some of the best defensive linemen in the league, but after awhile, it is practice. But in a game, it allows you to go 100%. You leave it up to preparation, and you get to go against someone who is different week-to-week.”

Pryor’s journey from a draft pick out of TCU to the potential starter next season hasn’t exactly been a quick one, but it has prepared him for this moment. Although he didn’t play a single snap his rookie season, Pryor’s first year with the team did give him a chance to learn from offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, an invaluable experience for a young player. 

“Stout is the dude, man,” Pryor said. “He teaches every player the same, but also adjusts to how you react to teaching and coaching and learning the offense. But that dude really cares about his players, and wants you to be the best you can be.”

While his time learning and practicing under Stoutland has been crucial, nothing helps a player like in-game experience. Pryor got 143 snaps of action in total last season and it allowed him to adjust to the difference between practice speed, preseason speed and the speed of games in both the regular season and postseason. 

“When I first got out there it was a little fast, but after each snap went by and I got a little more comfortable,” Pryor said, “the game started slowing down.”

While nothing is guaranteed, chances are Pryor will be lining up between Kelce and Lane Johnson next season in place of the injured Brooks. The starting spot is a crucial one, as the Eagles have had one of the best offensive lines in the league the last few seasons, something the team has been able to count on while dealing with injuries all over the rest of the field. The right side of the line, with Brooks and Johnson, has been especially effective and crucial to the Eagles’ success on offense. 

Building chemistry with Johnson quickly will be key, considering the two have very little experience playing on the field together. Having to build that chemistry is especially tricky this offseason, but Pryor and Johnson have been working together, lifting at Johnson’s house and preparing for the upcoming season. 

“I talked to Lane, and he has his own little weight room in the back that he built up from his old barn, so we call that the ‘House of Lane’,” Pryor said. “So I started working out with Lane.”

The good news for Pryor is that as he prepares for his new role, he will be surrounded with plenty of All-Pro, veteran talent to help him — including the player he might be replacing 

“You have to give that dude his props — he knows how to handle adversity really well,” Pryor said of Brooks. “His positivity didn’t change. He was really optimistic. That is why I like having him on the O-Line. He already talked to me, he says he is going to coach me up, help me out, and have me prepared for the game to play.”

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