As recently as a week ago, it didn't look like Isaac Seumalo had a very good chance of being a starting offensive lineman for the Eagles this season. Entering training camp, there was thought Seumalo would challenge incumbent starting left guard Allen Barbre. But the veteran took all of the first team reps while the rookie remained exclusively on the second team unit. Even when starting right guard Brandon Brooks was missing practice, the Eagles opted to put Stefen Wisniewski ahead of Seumalo.
How quickly things change.
Following the expected suspension of Eagles starting right tackle Lane Johnson, the Eagles have kicked Barbre to the outside. That move has now opened a spot up on the interior for Seumalo. So far, the coaching staff has liked what they've seen out of him.
"Isaac's progress has been really good," said Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. "When you see a young guy, who has the physical ability and the smarts that he has, it really shows up on film. He's an explosive athlete for an offensive lineman and when he's right, it's eye catching. When he's right on the film, it's eye catching."
Seumalo's athleticism was on display during Philadelphia's first preseason game against the Buccaneers.
Shot 5 - Was excited to watch these young OL. Lots of flashes. Josh Andrews & I. Seumalo show off their athleticism pic.twitter.com/n3l0CKVmIz— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) August 12, 2016
Also on display: Seumalo's rookie mistakes.
This is the Isaac Seumalo play that baffled me last night. pic.twitter.com/i90kkAAPf6— Josh Paunil (@JoshPaunil) August 12, 2016
"But like many young players, you've still got to iron out -- you can't have low lows and high highs," Reich continued. "There's got to be the consistent highs. And that's what most of the young players really are always working on: eliminating the bad plays. Like in golf, the bad shot can't be that bad. And so that's part of the goal as a player, when you're having a bad play, it just can't be that detrimental to the team. You have to find a way to be consistently good."
It's not impossible for the Eagles to place Wisniewski back in the starting lineup if they feel the rookie isn't ready for the job. Along with being young and inexperienced, Seumalo is also at a disadvantage after being forced to miss all of Philadelphia's spring practices. For now, though, Seumalo has an opportunity to win the job. The Eagles are hopeful the 22-year-old can add much-needed youth to an offensive line that otherwise ranks as the oldest in the NFL.
Watch Reich's Monday press conference in the video below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page. Transcript below.
Q. What did you see out of QB Carson Wentz last Thursday and how do you think he did overall?
FRANK REICH: Yeah, I thought it was a good opening-day performance. We saw the great athleticism that he has. You could see it wasn't too big for him. A lot of good moves from Carson.
Q. How do you feel WR Rueben Randle did?
FRANK REICH: Yeah, I think with Rueben – it's a preseason game [and] there's plays we all can improve. Coaches, players, we all can improve. There's flashes of stuff, but the whole goal for our offense is consistency. We go in, we get in there, we go three plays, we score a touchdown. We get the ball back, we score a touchdown, that's great. That's good news. If our special teams [and] defense plays like that and gets us turnovers like that, that's good news that we can convert into touchdowns. But really what it takes to win, week-in and week-out, is consistency and that's across the board at all positions.
Q. You’ve done this for a while and when you go to training camp, there's a natural progression as you go along. As you stand here today at this point in camp and continue that progression is the offense where you thought it would be right now? Is it a little bit ahead of the curve or behind the curve?
FRANK REICH: No, I think we are where we need to be. You have to balance it as a coach. You're never happy. You walk off the practice field every day remembering the plays that didn't go well. You walk off a preseason game remembering the plays that didn't go well, but you have to keep balance. So players, coaches alike, you need to have a sense of urgency but understand it is a process. And that's the maturity and the perspective that it takes. You can't get caught up in one bad play but you have to be accountable for one bad play. So that's how it works. But the whole goal is if we are fighting and pushing to get better, then that process works itself out over time.
Q. You mention consistency, and WR Paul Turner has been one of the most consistent receivers in this camp. What are some of the things you’re seeing from him that have allowed him to elevate up the depth chart?
FRANK REICH: Paul is a good route runner; he's got good feet, he's got good hands. I think that's really a big part of playing consistently, right? The quarterback has to know where you're going to be. Quarterbacks want to have the confidence to know that we're going to make the play when we come to him. Paul has done a pretty nice job.
Q. With Wentz being out for a while, what does that do to the plan for QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson? How do you think he's handled the added responsibilities?
FRANK REICH: McLeod is a real pro. I'm so glad we have him here. We thought that from the beginning. He handles himself like a pro. He’s getting more reps in practice. Well likely, it’s up to Coach Pederson [Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson], [but] will likely get a little bit more play time in a game. But he's ready to go and we're glad he's here.
Q. With Bethel-Thompson now taking practice reps, will all three of the quarterbacks continue to get equal reps now?
FRANK REICH: It's close, but maybe not quite as close. But yeah, honestly, it's still pretty even.
Q. How does the growth of Wentz now develop, because he may not play – if he plays – until the last preseason game?
FRANK REICH: Good question. It’s still easy for him to grow. [He’s] just got to concentrate and get the mental reps. We're all a big believer in that. You can get the mental reps, you can still get a lot of film study and still be interacting with the players. Maybe even to more of an extent, interacting with the receivers, and talking about what you expect as a quarterback. And we certainly expect no slowing down the process as far as growing mentally. Obviously, you can't get the physical reps when you're hurt, but at every position, –certainly at the quarterback position – I expect to see continued growth.
Q. Will you increase Wentz’s reps when he comes back to play catch up?
FRANK REICH: That's Coach Pederson's call. I mean, I doubt you do that. You just have to stay with your plan. But Coach Pederson only will decide that.
Q. On Turner’s catches in the game, was he first option on many of those? Or was he the second or third progression?
FRANK REICH: On most of his [catches], I think he's primary or secondary on most of those, which is what you want to do. You try to scheme things up so the quarterback is getting to his first or second progression. That's why you game plan the plays that you do. Every now and then, there's always a handful of plays in a game where a quarterback has to get to the third or fourth read in the progression or he has to improvise and do something. When we set something up and game plan it, we're game planning it usually for the first two guys in the progression to get the ball.
Q. With RB Wendell Smallwood coming back from injury on Saturday, is your high priority getting him to play Thursday in Pittsburgh?
FRANK REICH: Again, that's really trainers and Coach Pederson as far as ultimately deciding. You've got to keep that balance. Just because a guy is healthy, there's still kind of -- you have to work back into full action. That's a day-by-day decision that's really made between the head coach and the trainers.
Q. How did RB Cedric O'Neal and RB Byron Marshall look in the game, and how have they progressed in this camp?
FRANK REICH: I think Ced and Byron are continuing to make progress. But again, it's all about consistency – like I said earlier – at every position. So, you try not to get too excited about the good stuff, and you don't go crazy and lose your mind over the bad stuff. There's just something; you have to have that mental toughness. You really have to have that mental toughness. So that despite whether you had your best game or your worst game; you come back the next play or the next day and say ‘we have to find ways to get better.’
Q. How is the rotation on the offensive line going? Has G/T Allen Barbre made a smooth transition to right tackle?
FRANK REICH: Allen is a pro. He's versatile. He's played there before. It's standard course of business in the NFL to rotate linemen around and get them a lot of reps. Obviously with situations, it's that good time in camp where you have got to move guys around. Because invariably throughout the season, you just see it. Stories are written about it every week in 32 cities. Rarely are you playing with the same offensive line at all five positions the whole year. So you have got to prepare for that. This is a good step for us and Allen is a pro. He can make that adjustment and we have high expectations for him.
Q. Wentz is a mobile guy and he got hurt in college as well. Is there something you can do to help him better protect himself or do you just chalk it up to coincidence?
FRANK REICH: I thought he protected himself pretty well. He had his first slide of his career in that game. The flip that he did on the one – it was a fourth and 7 – the guy caught him by surprise. You don't want to see that.
Obviously as coaches, you cringe when that happens. But it was a fourth and 7, he took it up inside the corner, kind of flashed at the last second and he didn't see him. I think Carson gets it. I think he gets it. I think he'll slide when he needs to slide. The injury came on a play where that could have happened to anybody. That had really nothing to do [with him], other than they ran a blitz we couldn't pick up. We just needed to make a slight adjustment in what we did there and get that ball out a little bit quicker.
But other than that, I think he gets it. I think he understands it's his responsibility to get down and slide when he can. But he's an aggressive athlete, so there's going to be a time or two where he's going to take a shot, but we have to keep that to a minimum. He has to keep that to a minimum, but I think he has a pretty good handle on it.