The NFL world is raving about the Philadelphia Eagles’ start to the season and Australian left tackle Jordan Mailata has a lot to do with it.
As more than 200 players, coaches and executives recognise their heritage by wearing their national flags over the next two weeks – including eight Australians – Mailata’s presence on the Eagles’ offensive line has not gone unnoticed.
READ MORE: Dally M winner backs call for key name change
READ MORE: Panthers great fumes over Dally M snub
READ MORE: Jersey’s subtle detail a powerful World Cup protest
Most NFL experts say a strong offensive line goes a long way to finding success in the league, giving the quarterback time to throw and opening lanes with blocks for the running back.
The Eagles are 3-0 this season, firing on both sides of the ball. The team’s offence has been garnering rave reviews with many experts labelling them the best team in the NFL at the moment and raging hot favourites to take out the NFC East.
The Eagles offence ranks in the top five in passing yards, touchdowns (3rd), and explosive passing plays of 40-plus yards (1st). The team also leads the league in points scored in the first half.
And Mailata is a huge part of it. The Aussie’s size, strength and speed on the left edge provides a reliable cushion for quarterback Jalen Hurts, allowing the second-year starter to feel at ease in the pocket, free to do his business without worrying about an attack on his blindside.
While some commentators were critical of Mailata’s form in the first two weeks of the season, in wins over Detroit and Minnesota, others like the Philly Sports Network described Mailata and his offensive line teammates as the franchise’s “unsung heroes.”
The former seventh-round pick added to his ever-growing highlight reel in week three against the Washington Commanders, with his “pancake” block on Rachad Wildgoose leaving fans and commentators in awe of the Bankstown product’s footwork and brutal strength.
Even without the highlights, one measuring stick of Mailata’s form is Hurts’ dazzling play.
There was concern whether the quarterback could elevate as a passer – but now he’s regarded as an early MVP candidate, ranking third in passing yards (916), ninth in completion rate (67.3 percent) and sixth in QBR (74.8).
Philadelphia hosts Jacksonville on Monday morning (AEDT), with Mailata taking on fellow Aussie, defensive-end Adam Gotsis, who is a fixture on the Jaguars defensive line.
Gotsis, who has a sack and four tackles this season, and the Jaguars have sprung upset defeats in recent weeks and have the league’s fourth-best ranked defence with a 2-1 record.
The first match of the league’s annual international series also takes place in the early hours of Monday morning (12.30am) when the Minnesota Vikings host the New Orleans Saints at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Among the players representing Australia will be Mailata and Eagles punter Aryn Siposs, rookie Baltimore Ravens tackle Daniel Faalele, Seattle Seahawks punter Michael Dickson and Jaguars defensive lineman Gotsis.
The international series wraps up on November 14 when the Seahawks and Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers play a regular-season game in Germany for the first time at Allianz Arena, the home of Bundesliga juggernaut Bayern Munich.
“The NFL is proud of the extensive collection of nationalities and heritage of its players across the league,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.
“We recognise the many cultures they represent and the excitement they bring to their home fans, which ultimately helps grow our game.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!