For Eagles' Andre Dillard to Succeed, He Must Learn to Run Block

Washington State doesn't just run the ball less than any other college program in the country.

It's not even close.

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The Cougars ran the football 21.4 times per game last year, a figure that includes quarterback sacks.

The next-fewest carries in all of the BCS was Texas San Antonio at 29.4 rushing attempts per game.

So Washington State ran eight fewer times per game than anybody else in the country.

The numbers are similar for every year Mike Leach has been coaching in Pullman.

This is how Leach coaches college football. And this is how Andre Dillard played college football.

In his four years in Pullman, Dillard pass blocked 70 percent of the time.

No wonder there are questions about his run blocking.

"There's that question, can this guy run block?" Dillard said. "You know, there hasn't been much film of that. I haven't been asked to do that a lot."

The Eagles moved up three spots in the draft last month to select Dillard at No. 22. He's their left tackle of the future and the heir apparent to Jason Peters.

But even in an NFL in which teams are throwing more than ever, is Dillard simply a pass-blocking specialist or can he learn to run block well enough to anchor the Eagles' offensive line for the next decade?

Yeah, they did throw the ball a lot at Washington State … and that's why he's a good pass protector," said Doug Pederson, an old friend of Leach. "We pride ourselves in running the ball here, and he's going to come in and learn. It's why (offensive line coach) Jeff Stoutland is here. He's a great teacher and he's a great fundamentalist, and he's going to work on every aspect of every one of our players' games up front. And so I have no hesitation that he's going to be a good run blocker for us.

Run blocking takes a different mentality than pass blocking. You need to have a mean streak. You need a different kind of aggressiveness.

Dillard needs to prove he has that.

"You've got a little taste of that over my film and over the Senior Bowl film," he said. "It's just a switch. People will think I'm not capable of being a mean guy on the field because I'm nice right now, but there's that switch, and you've got to know when to be mean and when to be nice."

The Eagles will get their first look at Dillard in action on Friday, Day 1 of a three-day rookie camp.

He'll get to work against Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and the rest of the Eagles' pass rushers at the full-team OTAs later this month and in June.

The real challenge comes this summer, when the pads go on and the hitting begins.

That'll be Dillard's first chance to really prove he's got what it takes to run block in the NFL.

I would say I am a very good run blocker," Dillard said. "I would say there are questions about my ability to run block just because I was not asked to do it a lot in college coming out of that Mike Leach offense. So it makes sense for people to have that question about me. But I can tell you with full confidence that I am capable of doing it just as well as the next guy, and I am excited to showcase that.

Tra Thomas and Peters were both exceptional pass blockers, but what set them apart was their ability - Peters a bit more than Thomas - to run block at a very high level as well.

The Eagles do throw a lot, but they've actually run the football the 11th most in the NFL in three years under Pederson - nearly 27½ times per game.

For Dillard to be worth the 22nd pick in the draft, he's got to be able to do it all.

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