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What Lane Johnson's suspension could mean for the Eagles offensive line

A look at how the Eagles could try to replace Lane Johnson.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

If Lane Johnson doesn't win his appeal, the Eagles' starting right tackle will reportedly be suspended for the first 10 games of the 2016 NFL season. Here's a look at what a potential Johnson suspension means for the Eagles. Short version: it's very bad. Long version: keep reading.

Replacement options

The first thought is: who will replace Johnson in his absence? The good news is that the Eagles have some options. The bad news is that none of them are particularly great. If I had to guess, here's what the Eagles' starting lineup would look like in Week 1.

Left tackle: Jason Peters
Left guard: Allen Barbre
Center: Jason Kelce
Right guard: Brandon Brooks
Right tackle: Dennis Kelly

Kelly has been taken all his reps at second team right tackle this offseason, so I have him as the first man up. Matt Tobin might be in the mix considering he's the first man up at left tackle. Either way, Kelly and Tobin have struggled in the past. They might be able to hold down the fort for a few games or so, but they're not ideal long-term starters. Kelly has started 15 games in his career while Tobin has started 20. They've both split time at guard and tackle.

Another option for the Eagles is to kick out Barbre to tackle. He was set to start there when Johnson was facing a four-game suspension in 2014 before suffering season-ending injury in Week 1. If Barbre moves out, that could open up a spot for Stefen Wisniewski.

Left tackle: Jason Peters
Left guard: Stefen Wisniewski
Center: Jason Kelce
Right guard: Brandon Brooks
Right tackle: Allen Barbre

Wiz has started and played in 77 games over his five-year career. He's spent most of that time at center but he's looked good at guard during training camp this summer. Third round pick Isaac Seumalo could also push for the left guard spot in this lineup if he has a strong preseason, but Wiz is the more likely option.

Of these two potential options, I think the second one is morepreferable. Barbre on the outside and Wiz on the inside could give the Eagles their best non-Johnson lineup.

The Jason Peters complication

It's really hard to see Peters lasting through the entire season unscathed. The 35-year-old is approaching the end of his career. He's coming off an extremely injury-riddled 2015 season and reportedly has a degenerative condition. Peters already suffered a quad injury during training camp. He's expected to miss Philadelphia's first preseason game this week, though he could be back in time for the second exhibition game.

With Peters out, the Eagles have been using Tobin as his backup. Johnson could have also been a replacement option there if he was eligible to play. If the Eagles are down both Peters and Johnson at some point this season, which isn't unlikely, the offensive line could look something like this ...

Left tackle: Matt Tobin
Left guard: Allen Barbre
Center: Jason Kelce
Right guard: Brandon Brooks
Right tackle: Dennis Kelly

Yikes. Alternatively, the Eagles could put Barbre at right tackle and Wiz at left guard. Either way, it's not great.

Offensive issues

The Eagles aren't exactly loaded with offensive talent, in case you missed it. A weakened offensive line really just magnifies all the issues that much more. The injury-prone Sam Bradford has worse protection now. The Eagles' running back situation was sketchy to start, and now with Johnson gone the team has lost one of their best run blockers. A bad situation has been made worse.

Contract implications

As pointed out earlier, all of the future guaranteed money in Johnson's contract is voided if he's suspended. Any guaranteed money he's already received must be paid back to the Eagles.

Future concerns

If Johnson messes up again in the future, even if it's just an accident, he could miss some serious time. A third PED suspension would mean Johnson is suspended for at least two years. This is very bad news for a team that has been planning for Johnson to take over as the franchise's cornerstone left tackle for the considerable future.

Silver lining

While it's certainly hard to butter up bad news like this, it should be pointed out that Johnson will be able to return for some key games down the stretch.

Week 12 - Green Bay Packers (Nov. 28, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN) *Monday Night Football*

Week 13 - @ Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 4, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Week 14 - Washington Redskins (Dec. 11, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Week 15 - @ Baltimore Ravens (Dec. 18, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Week 16 - New York Giants (Dec. 22, 8:25 PM ET, NBC/NFLN) *Thursday Night Football*

Week 17 - Dallas Cowboys (Jan. 1, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

The important thing here is that Johnson will "only" miss three division games. If the Eagles can stay alive, Johnson could be back in time to help the Eagles to take care of business in the division.

The Eagles weren't going to contend this year anyway

You could always look at it like this, too. Yes, the Eagles might be able to compete in the NFC East. But were they ever really going to be true title contenders? Probably not. Bradford is a lame duck starter under center and the overall roster talent just isn't there to contend with the elite teams in the league. Not to mention Doug Pederson is a total unknown at head coach.


This is very disappointing news for the Eagles, especially just two days away from the preseason home opener. The Eagles are potentially going to lose one of the players they could least afford to lose this season.

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