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Lane Johnson Injury: Eagles preparing to play without starting right tackle

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Well, this sucks.

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Cleveland Browns v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Lane Johnson suffered a concussion during the Eagles’ Week 5 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. It seems unlikely he’ll suit up for Philadelphia’s Week 6 game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football.

“Right now he’s in the [NFL’s mandatory concussion] protocol,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed on Monday. “And so I’ll get more information this afternoon when the players come in and meet with the doctors. But that’s where he’s at coming out of the football game.”

Since Johnson suffered a concussion, he must be independently cleared before he can return to action. Here’s what Pederson had to say when asked if it’s even possible for Johnson to be cleared in time for Thursday’s game:

“It’s tough, based on the protocol and what the players have to go through. So, again, I’ll find out more this afternoon. But it’s hard … on a short week.”

So are the Eagles preparing to play with Johnson?

“Going forward, kind of have to. Again, on a short week like this, players will be in today and we’ve got to work today, obviously, and this afternoon and this evening. I have to plan that way, going into this game.”

Yikes.

As Eagles fans are well aware, Johnson is such a critical part of the team’s success. He’s a force at right tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s only allowed five pressures in 193 total pass block snaps. That rate ranks third best in the NFL among offensive tackles.

The Eagles are 9-2 in their last 11 games when Johnson has played. They are 2-8 in the last 10 games he’s missed.

With Johnson out, the Eagles are expected to start Halapoulivaati Vaitai in his place. The man they call Big V has made six career starts and played in 11 total games since being selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Vaitai got off to a rough start as a rookie but then he started to settle in a little. The team is high on him; they use Big V as an extra blocker in some special situations.

Vaitai had to fill in for Johnson for the second half of the Eagles-Cardinals game. Pederson was encouraged by what he saw:

“Big V came in and started the third quarter. We went down and got the points right away. Played good. Played solid. He’s one that, the more he plays, the better he gets, obviously. Even on a short week, for him, not getting a ton of reps at tackle, to come in off the bench like he does, it’s just a tribute to the way he prepares himself and the way he battles and gets better every time he gets out there.”

According to PFF, Vaitai didn’t allow a single pressure (sack, hit, or hurry) in pass protection. That’s good.

Vaitai is typically the Eagles’ top backup at either tackle position. So with him starting instead, it’s going to be Isaac Seumalo as the swing tackle this week.

Seumalo opened the season as the team’s starting left guard before getting benched in Week 3. The Eagles have kept him as a healthy scratch since Week 4 but now he’ll likely be active again. Seumalo has some college experience at tackle and also made one start there against the Ravens in 2016.

Johnson missing this game is a tough blow for the Eagles since the 4-1 Panthers seem to be hitting their stride. It’s going to be difficult to go down to Carolina and get a win.

The good news is that the Eagles will have 10 days off before they play the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. One would think Johnson will be back in time for that NFC East matchup.

Johnson might’ve even been ready to play this week if the game was on Sunday. Just another reminder that Thursday Night Football sucks.