The Philadelphia Eagles are prepping for a true training camp battle for the starting left tackle job between a former first-round pick and a former seventh-rounder.
Selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, Andre Dillard was penciled in as the opening-day left tackle last season, but a torn biceps wiped out his entire campaign. In stepped Jordan Mailata, a 2018 seventh-rounder out of Australia who hadn't taken a regular-season snap.
Mailata performed well in 15 games, including 10 starts.
With Dillard back to what he called "100 percent," the Eagles will let the two young players compete for the job this offseason.
"I welcome all competition. I never shy away from it. I'm glad that it's happening and it makes sense that it's happening," said Dillard, via the team's official website. "Jordan came in and filled in last year. He played most of the season and he did really well, so it only makes sense for the coaches to give it a little competition and not just give somebody a spot when I come back from the injury. We're really good friends, sit next to each other in the locker room, and we always pal around. Out on the field, we're always pushing each other to get better, so I really welcome it and it's fun competing with him."
Dillard and Mailata have split reps with the starters during OTAs and will likely do so once the competition ramps up at the start of training camp.
Despite his pedigree as a first-round pick, nothing will be handed to Dillard, given how Mailata responded in his first action as a professional.
A former National Rugby League player, Mailata is ready to battle to keep the job he held down for the bulk of last season.
"The big thing with me is confidence and improving every day I'm out there," Mailata said. "I'm going to keep progressing and challenging myself every day. It doesn't matter how good of a year I've had, or how bad a year I had, I always come back and challenge myself in that way. It always comes down to who is the best man for the job. My mantra is to get better every day. I said that from the day I stepped in, to the day I leave. That's my number one thing to do every day, to get one percent better every day. Hard work always takes care of hard work. If I focus on that, the rest will take care of itself.
"I'm not really interested in, based on my playing last year, have I earned it (the starting job). No, it's not about who earned it. It's always, who is the best man for the job? If that's me or Dillard, so be it."
When training camp kicks off in late July, the job of protecting Jalen Hurts' blind side will be on the table for both Mailata and Dillard to earn.