We’re only in the final days of March, and the Eagles’ 2012 season has already been dealt a crushing blow.

Jason Peters, Philly’s four-time All Pro and one of the game’s elite offensive tackles, ruptured his Achillies tendon during a training session this week. He’ll have surgery on Monday for an injury that typically takes up to a year to fully heal.

The keyword in that sentence is “fully.” NFL players are finely-tuned athletic machines, and they’re not normal humans. Their recovery time from even the most severe injury is much quicker than that of the pathetic mortals who put posters of them on walls. If you have a Peters poster dangling in your office cubicle, you’ve made history as the first fan to ever own a poster of an offensive lineman. Your cubicle is likely also located in the office basement.

If he responds well to the procedure, the optimistic outlook has Peters returning near the tail end of the season, and perhaps making a minor contribution. It’s unclear how likely that glass half-full scenario is (probably not very likely at all), but any contribution from an elite offensive lineman is better than no contribution at all.

Even if Peters is able to recover quickly and play at 75-ish percent in late December, his efforts will probably be fruitless, and staying on the sideline will be the much wiser move. By that time the damage may have already been done to the Eagles offense, figuratively and literally.

Michael Vick will enter his 10th NFL season this fall, and we’re still waiting for that momentous four-to-five month period when we watch football on Sundays, and each week features a Vick appearance. He still hasn’t played a full 16-game season yet, and during his two years as the Eagles’ starter he’s missed five games. In 2011 he was battered repeatedly behind a poor offensive line, and staying upright while maintaining the structural integrity of his body parts certainly didn’t get any easier today with the loss of Peters.

Peters allowed only three sacks while appearing in 570 plays last year, and according to Pro Football Focus, his 21 total pressures allowed were the fourth lowest among offensive tackles. And that’s just the hammer fist given to Philly’s passing game, and an offensive line that was already weak even with Peters last year. The running game is another matter, as Peters was a major factor during LeSean McCoy’s 1,309-yard season.

Demetrius Bell is the best tackle still available on the free agent market, but if that’s an avenue Eagles general manager Howie Roseman wants to pursue, he’ll have to move quickly. Bell has met with four teams, including a visit with the Steelers today.

Peters’ injury hurts even more since it comes after Winston Justice was shipped to Indianapolis. Pennies had to be pinched, and Justice, a second-round pick who started 31 games at right tackle between 2009 and 2010, was a salary cap victim. Evan Mathis was retained, but now there’s only the inexperienced King Dunlap at left tackle. Dunlap was signed today to a one-year deal, a minor pact that was assumed to be merely a depth move.

Until another move is made or some shifting on the offensive line is done, Dunlap is now a starter, a position he’s assumed just seven times in his three-year career.

Get ready to duck, Mike.