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Doug Pederson confirms Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start Sunday

Big V season approaching.

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Pederson told reporters Wednesday morning that rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai will be the team’s starting right tackle on Sunday against Washington, in light of the news that Lane Johnson’s 10-game suspension was upheld by an arbitrator on Tuesday.

Vaitai, who the Eagles selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, will line up in his first NFL action Sunday.

“He’s worked extremely hard,” Pederson said Wednesday. “He’s gone against our defensive front, not only through training camp but the regular season. He’s a smart kid, athletic kid, strong kid. Just excited to watch him play on Sunday.

Is he ready, Doug?

“He is ready,” Pederson said.

Like they did with Carson Wentz, the Eagles’ coaching staff is planning on giving Vaitai free reign as the team’s right tackle, Pederson said. They don’t want him to struggle, but they do want to see what he’s got.

“We’re not changing game plan or any of that,” Pederson said. “As you get into the football game, if you see a guy is needing help, we can obviously help him with backs and tight ends, like most teams will do.

“But if everything is great and going as planned, then no, we just roll. The run game helps guys like that, especially in their first start, so we lean a little bit more on that, maybe. It’ll be monitored, obviously, but a full week of practice with him? He’ll be fine. We’re not going to handcuff the kid so much that he can’t play.”

Pederson later mentioned that the team sees Vaitai as the right tackle-in-waiting, for when Lane Johnson replaces Jason Peters at left tackle. As for when that will happen, the timeline is still fuzzy, of course.

But Eagles fans will get a first look at their right tackle of the future on Sunday.

Until December, Lane

What did Doug Pederson say to Lane Johnson before he left the NovaCare Complex after being suspended for 10 games?

“I just wanted to express, through myself, through Stout, one, obviously disappointed,” Pederson said. “And we all are accountable for our actions. But at the same time, we’re looking forward to getting him back in the building in a few weeks.

Pederson said Johnson has decided to go back to Oklahoma, with his family and his school. There, he’ll be rehabbing his hyperextended elbow with the school.

Possible roster move?

Pederson said the team obviously hasn’t made a roster move yet, but the plan is to use Johnson’s roster spot by making a move at some point later this week.

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