There's plenty of reason to be worried about the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive line. The most obvious concern regards the potential Lane Johnson suspension. It's looking increasingly likely that the Birds will be without their starting right tackle for 10 games during the 2016 NFL schedule.
The worries don't stop with him, though. Starting left guard Allen Barbre is potentially moving outside to replace Johnson. Barbre didn't look great in that role as the Eagles played him in limited time there in 2014. The 34-year-old Jason Peters, who struggled with injury issues all of last season, already missed Philadelphia's first preseason game due to a quad injury. Starting right guard Brandon Brooks is talented, but he's new to the scheme and he's already missed a lot of practice time due to hamstring and bicep injuries. Starting center Jason Kelce has been a Pro Bowl player at his best. He's also coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season where he mightily struggled. The depth behind the starters isn't all that encouraging, either.
So, is Eagles head coach Doug Pederson concerned about this unit?
"You know what, I'm really not," he said after practice on Saturday. "I'm really not. I look back to our days in Kansas City. We had a lot of injuries there and we were moving guys around, and we had a young left tackle early on. We made it work."
"I'm looking for five tough, dirty, nasty guys that want to go out and just play football. I don't care which five it is, but we're going to find the best five and the right five, and I feel like we've got them here on the team."
Now, it's not like he's going to say "Yes, I am very concerned." But Pederson makes a good point. The Chiefs did deal with a number of significant offensive line issues during his tenure as offensive coordinator. Despite these concerns, Kansas City was still able to have success. The Chiefs ranked 6th in offensive DVOA in 2015, 12th in 2014, and 15th in 2013.
Maybe the Eagles will be able to patch something together and make it work. The lineup they're currently going with as they prepare for Johnson's absence looks like the following:
Left tackle - Jason Peters
Left guard - Isaac Seumalo
Center - Jason Kelce
Right guard - Brandon Brooks
Right tackle - Allen Barbre
The Eagles have also reportedly reached out to veteran free agent tackle Will Beatty. He could come in to play on the right side, which would move Barbre back to left guard.
On paper, it's not an inspiring bunch. The Eagles already have a lot of question marks at the skill positions. Being weak in the trenches could only serve to make matters even worse. To be determined if Pederson's confidence in his players is misplaced or not.
Watch Pederson's Saturday press conference in the video below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page. Transcript below.
Q. Now that you've been able to see the film, is there anyone that stood out to you that you didn't particularly notice during the game?
COACH PEDERSON: Well, obviously that first unit only got three plays. The execution was pretty good, pretty good. We got the touchdown right there. And really, we played so many guys. It wasn't like one guy. [S] Jaylen Watkins on defense really played well; had chances for a couple interceptions in the game. [DT] Fletcher Cox had the sack-fumble right there, the strip-fumble on that. But overall, playing a lot of guys, you just want to get them all on tape and evaluate them. I just felt the guys worked really hard preparing themselves for that game and putting themselves in a position to show us what they had.
Q. Are you concerned at all with the amount of dropped passes from the receivers and tight ends in the game?
COACH PEDERSON: Well, it's something obviously they got to continue to work on. We set the jugs up after practice and we just keep firing away. We keep firing away. It's a pride thing.But at the same time at the end of the day they know they have to catch the football in order to play for me and make the football team. So, it's part of their job, but we just keep working at it every day.
Q. Can you explain your logic on the way that you shuffled the offensive line today?
COACH PEDERSON: The logic? Again, I wanted to see [G] Isaac [Seumalo] at left guard with the ones; I wanted to see [G/T] Allen [Barbre] at right tackle; wanted to see [C/G] Barrett Jones at center. It's that time at camp now where we start shuffling some guys around up front to just see where we're at and see guys play in multiple spots.
Q. Obviously Allen played at right tackle. Who are the other guys that you kind of foresee getting reps there with the possibility of T Lane Johnson being suspended?
COACH PEDERSON: Obviously, you got ‘Big V’ [T Halapoulivaati Vaitai] sitting right there. Of course, [T] Jason Peters [is] on the left side. [G/T] Matt Tobin can play both sides, and he played well the other night [with] limited reps. But again, it's a situation where this is the time … Once you get kind of through that first game, you start shuffling your roster a little bit. I want to see different receivers in different spots. And then up front I want to see the combination of guys, particularly Isaac [Seumalo], too, getting a chance to work with that first unit and go against our first D-line [defensive line]. I think [it] is a valuable experience for all those guys.
Q. What did you see from Isaac on tape Thursday night?
COACH PEDERSON: A guy that knows his assignments. He had a couple of penalties in there, some false starts and things. He's just got to listen to the count. The quarterback cadence was a little different. He's a guy that's really challenging to play. He's a young guy that, again, knows his assignments; good fundamentally; a technician. Just, again, [we] want to put him in positions where he can be successful and help us down the road.
Q. How do you plan to use Lane Johnson? Are you going to start playing the other guys more in training camp and maybe in games?
COACH PEDERSON: Well, I wanted to see guys at different spots. What happens if Jason Peters goes down during the regular season, or [C] Jason Kelce goes down during the regular season? I just want to see different guys at those spots. In order to do that you've got to take time now this week in camp to get that accomplished. So, it's no different if [QB] Sam [Bradford] went down. I mean, [QB] Chase [Daniel] and [QB] Carson [Wentz], next guy up, let's go play. That's just the way that this week is going to be for us. It's going to be a time to find out who the combinations are going to be, especially once we get into that third week of training camp where we kind of treat it more like an in-season week.
Q. Do you almost have to proceed thinking that Lane Johnson will not be there?
COACH PEDERSON: I think it would behoove me to have a plan, yeah, for sure. Again, it just goes back to giving these guys an opportunity to get them on tape, to make the corrections now, so that down the road we're prepared for it.
Q. Carson Wentz didn’t seem to take too many reps today. Is there something bothering him or holding him back in any way?
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, I think it was the next-to-the-last play of the game he got hit pretty hard on the right side, stayed down on the ground for a while – just sore. [It] bothered him to throw a little bit, [but] he's fine. He'll get treatment on it and he'll be back out tomorrow.
Q. What have you seen out of WR Rueben Randle in the first preseason game?
COACH PEDERSON: Rueben is another kid that is a veteran kid, he's a smart kid; knows his assignment, knows his job. I wish we could have got him the football a little bit more. Had the tough third-down drop right there that would have been a big play for us. But he's grinding through. He’s grinding through and doing a nice job for us, and [I] fully expect him to help us during the regular season.
Q. Is this the point in the pre-season where the quarterback reps aren't as even and you start to give Sam more and more work?
COACH PEDERSON: No, we're staying equal with all three.
Q. Lane maintains that he didn't feel like that he did anything wrong in taking what he did, the supplement that he took. What can he do in terms of maintaining more responsibility to where you don't see obviously other players get caught like this? What could he have done differently, done better?
COACH PEDERSON: Listen, I don't get into all of that. [At the] end of the day you just got to be smart with what you put in your body. Everybody's responsible for that. I'm responsible for what I put in my body. At the end of the day, you just got to make good choices that way. We just got to move forward day-to-day.
Q. Guys like RB Wendell Smallwood, S Malcolm Jenkins, they were limited today because they’re just coming off injuries?
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, the plan for all those guys was warm up individually, a little group install, and then get them off the field, get them back in the training room.
Q. As far as Smallwood is concerned, he's been out for a week and a half. Is he pretty far behind now?
COACH PEDERSON: No. He went through some of those punt drills in the pre-practice right after the team stretch and it looked like he was moving around pretty good. These guys are professional athletes. It's just a matter of his timing getting out there. But at the same time he's doing a good job kind of fighting through that injury and putting himself in a position to be out here the next couple days.
Q. G Brandon Brooks left early today. Is he okay?
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, he's fine. He's fine. He was one of the same guys. You're talking about Brandon Brooks?
COACH PEDERSON: Yes, again, the warmup, the individual – he's fine. He'll be able to play. Again, just making sure everything's good and the arm is strong.
Q. What is your plan for the next two days with a light practice tomorrow night then the early morning on Monday?
COACH PEDERSON: It's a great schedule for them. It was warm today and the guys battled through it. I thought they actually came together and competed very well today. [We’ll be] indoors this afternoon for the walk-through, and then we do another walk-through in the morning tomorrow. So, they get some really good rest before we go over to the stadium back in pads. [It will be a] quick little two-hour practice, much like we did a couple weeks ago. And then we come out of pads on Monday, do a 10-10-10 [practice] and kind of clean some things up, and then back into pads on Tuesday and we're getting ready for Pittsburgh.
Q. What do you like about Allen Barbre at right tackle?
COACH PEDERSON: He's played there, number one – more left tackle than right, but he's been there in the past. I love his athleticism. He's a smart guy out there. Some of these next couple of days we've just got to keep getting him some reps and getting him caught up.
Q. What has Vaitai shown at the tackle position?
COACH PEDERSON: He's one of the young guys we're keeping our eye on. He's doing a great job. He's working hard. You know, just got to keep detailing his work. But he's getting close. He's pushing [T] Dennis [Kelly] and those guys to get some quality reps.
Q. The idea of Seumalo getting first-team reps, what went into that?
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, it's just the combination thing we're trying this week. We're just trying to see especially him next to [Jason] Kelce, next to [Jason] Peters; the communication there. He's really putting himself in a position to possibly play at that spot, if not rotate into that spot. So, it was good to see him get some reps not only today, but the next couple of days.