Before the Philadelphia Eagles took the field for their first training camp of 2014, head coach Chip Kelly met with the media. He was immediately asked about the succession plan regarding Lane Johnson's four game suspension. Kelly wasn't shy to say that Allen Barbre will be working with the Eagles first team unit at right tackle. Of course, this is hardly a surprise. Many figured Barbre would spell Johnson in his absence. But now it's official.
"We've got to prepare for our first four games, so we've got to get the guy who is going to be the starting right tackle for the first four games in there," Kelly said. The Eagles coach later explained that Johnson, now entering his second season in the NFL, will primarily be working with the second team. "He'll get reps, but they won't be with the first team right now."
Barbre, who hasn't recorded a career start since 2009 with the Packers, knows the team trusts him to take over for Johnson. Just take it from Kelly.
"He’s big. He’s physical. He’s really, really strong-handed," Kelly said. "When he gets his hands on people, he can really move people. He’s got a great understanding. He’s got a great flexibility in terms of being a guard, tackle for us.
Kelly noted that the contract extension the Eagles gave to Barbre this offseason was something Howie Roseman had been negotiating for some time. Barbre confirmed as much after practice.
"For them to show confidence in me enough to sign me shows that they trust me. So now I'm just coming out to do my part," Barbre said.
The veteran offensive lineman took repetitions with the first team, as Kelly indicated would happen. Barbre isn't making too much of the change, however.
"I don't feel any different," Barbre explained. "I come out and work hard every day. Whether I'm a backup or whether I'm a starter I want my team to trust me and I want to go out and play for my teammates."
Barbre's 51 snaps played against the Packers in 2013 came when he filled in for left tackle Jason Peters. Now that he's filling in for Johnson, Barbre will be on the right side. Barbre, known for his positional versatility, spoke on this challenge.
"I feel like I can play multiple positions. I'm probably a little more comfortable on left. But I've played [all positions] long enough that I'm comfortable with any one.
It remains to be seen how Barbre performs for Philadelphia. He's looked capable when he's played so far but the sample size has just been so small and there's no telling how that performance projects over the course of four games. Reasonable skepticism is more than fair. But what if Barbre doesn't only prove to be capable, but actually plays well enough to deserve starting consideration?
"I really can't tell you that. You know, I just go out and play well and do my job and if I become a starter, if I play well enough to start, then that's what I'm going to keep doing."
It seems unlikely the Eagles would bench a promising second year talent like Johnson in favor of a journeyman like Barbre. Still, that fact shouldn't stop Barbre from having the extra motivation to make the most of his opportunity.