Scuffling Eagles set to give Dunlap a go at guard
King Dunlap isn't one of those short, stocky, chubby guys that usually play guard. But while he might not look the part, the Eagles are fairly confident that the 6-foot-9 Dunlap can play it.
With Evan Mathis missing practice Thursday for a second straight day, Dunlap is on target to start at left guard Sunday when the Eagles (3-5) face the Cardinals (2-6) at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dunlap, a seventh-round pick in 2008, has started six games for the Eagles, three at left tackle, three at right.
And none at guard.
''It'll be a new experience for me, my first time playing guard in a game,'' Dunlap said. ''I'm going to make the most of it. I did it a little bit toward the end of last year in practice on scout team, but scout team and taking reps with the starters is a little bit different. I've done it a little bit in practice, but that's not like getting ready to do it now in a game.''
Dunlap is effectively the Eagles' top backup at all four offensive line positions other than center. Although he doesn't have a classic build for a guard, he's quick, athletic and powerful.
''King does a good job of bending real well,'' center Jason Kelce said. ''And he's got such long arms, he can snatch guys before they even get out of their stance almost, so he's got that luxury going for him. I wish I had that.''
And both teams wish they had a few more wins. The Eagles have lost five of their last seven, and the Cardinals have lost six of their last seven.
Dunlap said the biggest challenge at guard as opposed to tackle is staying low so opposing defensive linemen can't get leverage by getting under him.
''Normally you've got shorter, wider guys, a lot more power guys inside, so I have to make sure I keep myself down lower in my stance,'' he said. ''I've just got to bend a little bit more.''
The Eagles had a couple other options at left guard. Veteran Jamaal Jackson, the only player left from the 2004 Super Bowl team, is primarily a backup center but can play guard. And rookie Julian Vandervelde is listed as Mathis's backup.
The Eagles could have moved right tackle Todd Herremans back to left guard, where he played from 2006-2010, and used Dunlap or Winston Justice at right tackle, their natural positions.
''We have several players who we have great confidence in to play,'' offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. ''I have a high level of confidence in King Dunlap. I think he's a good football player. He's (practiced) guard many times both recent past history as well as past history. So I have great confidence in him going in.''
So do his teammates.
''King is a football player, just like I am, and he'll do fine and will be able to make the switch back and forth,'' Herremans said. ''He's going to be able to put his long arms to use.''
The Eagles have averaged 26 points in the six games Dunlap has started - including five last year.
''The more you can do, the better,'' Dunlap said. ''The more reason to keep you around. It'll be fun. A new challenge. Nothing like trying something you've ever done.''