The Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive tackle depth will be tested early in the 2016 preseason. The Eagles need dependable backups at each tackle spot due to Jason Peters questionable health, along with Lane Johnson facing a ten game suspension.
Matt Tobin is penciled in behind Peters at left tackle. Tobin will start in Peters place tomorrow to kick off the 2016 preseason versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Training camp has already been taking a toll on Peters, and the coaching staff believes giving him as much rest as necessary will help the veteran stay healthy during the season.
Andrew Gardner is penciled in as the third-string left tackle. Gardner, along with Tobin, both have starting experience and versatility. Gardner finished the 2014 season as the team’s starting right guard, while beating out Tobin and others for the position during the 2015 training camp.
Tobin ultimately replaced Gardner at right guard. Garnder’s season ended prematurely after suffering an injury in the team’s week three victory versus the New York Jets. Now the two will be competing for the backup left tackle spot, with Tobin already having an upper leg in the competition. The Eagles extended Tobin’s contract in the offseason and he gets his shot with the first-team offense tomorrow to prove he belongs in that spot.
The Eagles have a dark horse candidate to slide over to left tackle. The team’s rookie guard, Isaac Seumalo, has left tackle experience during his collegiate career at Oregon State. Seumalo is versatile enough to kick out to tackle in case of emergencies, but that’s not apart of the Eagles plans for him at this time. Seumalo is listed as the No. 2 left guard on the depth chart, but could also slide over to center, where he’s played majority of his football career.
It’s widely assumed the Eagles would slide Johnson over to left tackle if anything was to happen to Peters. Johnson is the team’s future left tackle, which they made known this offseason giving him a five-year extension this offseason and rewarding him with $35.5 million guaranteed. Doug Pederson and company might be forced to change that plan now.
According to multiple reports, Johnson is facing a ten game suspension for failing PED test. The league hasn’t announced the suspension yet and Johnson will appeal the suspension when or if it’s determined. If indeed the suspension holds up, the Eagles offensive line depth will be under the microscope more than ever.
Dennis Kelly is penciled in behind Johnson at right tackle. Kelly played the position frequently throughout the 2015 season, when Johnson moved over to left tackle. The team felt enough confidence in Kelly this offseason to reward him with a one-year extension.
Kelly was originally drafted into Andy Reid’s west coast offense in the fifth-round of the 2012 draft, which could cause Pederson to believe Kelly can only improve in his offense. The team also drafted offensive tackle, Halapoulivaati Vaitati, in the fifth-round of the 2016 draft. He’s penciled in as the No. 3 right tackle, but could compete for playing time early if Johnson’s suspension holds up.
The Eagles’ starting left guard at the moment, Allen Barbre, also has offensive tackle experience. The barber was slated to replace Johnson at right tackle after his suspension for the first four games of the 2014 season. Barbre, however, suffered a season-ending injury in the week one victory versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Pederson acknowledged all the players along the offensive line with the versatility to move to tackle if needed during the season.
“I think so. There’s a bunch of combinations. It’s hard to exactly predict what would happen scenario-wise,” Pederson said, when asked about Lane Johnson staying at right tackle and Tobin at left to start regular season.
“Yeah, there’s opportunities for Lane to come over. Tobin could go over to the right side. You have [G/T] Allen Barbre who could jump out there. You got [G/T] Dennis Kelly that could switch. There’s a bunch of scenarios. I can’t get into it at this time. But what you’re seeing right now has worked extremely well through camp.”
The preseason will answer a lot of questions regarding the offensive tackle depth. If the season were to start tomorrow and Johnson’s suspension held up, Tobin and Kelly would be the team’s offensive tackles.
Things could easily change prior to the start of the 2016 regular season. Injuries occur and depth players are emerging during this time of the year. The Eagles are hoping that happens among their offensive tackle group.