Philadelphia Eagles head coach, Doug Pederson, held his weekly presser today and hinted at something many did not expect. The head coach has a couple different plans at replacing right tackle, Lane Johnson, in the wake of his impending suspension.
Pederson is mulling playing 2016 fifth-round pick, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, at right tackle in Johnson’s absence. This comes as a surprise to many because the original plan was playing left guard, Allen Barbre, at right tackle, while Stefen Wisniewski fills in at left guard. Pederson said that is still a possibility, but he’s weighing all his options due to Barbre’s stellar play at left guard this season.
“It is true, it is true,” Pederson said when asked if he’s considering playing Vaitai at right tackle. “Talking with (offensive line) coach Stoutland and watching Big V closely, not only through preseason, but in practices these past couple of weeks.
“Again, we want to exhaust all the possibilities and Allen Barbre has been playing great at left guard. If you don’t have to disrupt two positions and just do one. I think there’s still some conversations there we need to have. (Vaitai) is definitely in the mix.”
ESPN’s NFL reporter, Ed Werder, first reported the Eagles brass considering replacing Johnson with Vaitai once the suspension for Johnson is announced. Pederson confirmed today of the possibility, but still left the door open for Barbre moving to right tackle
Pederson also confirmed that 2016 third-round pick, Isaac Seumalo, is fully healthy now. Seumalo was dealing with a pectoral injury, but according to Pederson, is 100% heading into the team’s week five matchup in Detroit.
Pederson did, however, rule out any chance of Seumalo playing left guard if in fact Barbre does transition to right tackle.
“Isaac is healthy now,” Pederson said. “It’s a good thing to be in this position. But the way it’s sort of working out, Isaac doesn’t necessarily factor in with the way (Wisniewski) playing in goal line situations.”
Pederson simply believes why hinder two positions along the offensive line, when you can just hinder one. The Eagles offensive line has been ranked the second-best unit in the NFL this season, according to NFL.com, for their stellar play. Pederson doesn’t want to affect the chemistry along the group, especially considering Barbre’s play at left guard, and believes Vaitai is ready to step in and serve as a reliable replacement for Johnson even as a rookie.
Vaitai has a chance to prove himself to the coaching staff with the opportunities he’ll receive in practice to obtain the starting spot. Eventually the Eagles will need a new right tackle with Johnson transitioning to left once Jason Peters tenure in Philadelphia is up. Vaitai could be that replacement, and he’ll get a chance to show why soon.