Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start at right tackle for Eagles in TNF clash with Panthers

The Eagles are playing against the Panthers in this week’s Thursday Night Football game, which means the team don’t have a lot of time to work with. For Lane Johnson, that means he will be sidelined for the meeting of two NFC Giants.

The Eagles right tackle exited Sunday’s game with a head injury that was later revealed to be a concussion. Doug Pederson met with reporters today to discuss the situation and all-but named Halapoluivaati Vaitai the starter on Thursday night. Johnson is in concussion protocol and the Eagles Head Coach deemed it “unlikely” for Johnson to return on such a short week.

Vaitai filled in for Johnson during the second half of the win over Arizona and played soundly. In fact, Vaitai even filled in for Jason Peters in the season-opener, revisiting an old foe in Kerrigan and was able to hold his own.

With a full season to learn under one of the most prolific right tackles in the game, Vaitai is now in a much better situation to be named the starter than he was one year ago. After being embarrassed by Ryan Kerrigan, Vaitai bounced back strong toward the end of his rookie season. In the three games after the Ryan Kerrigan explosion, here’s how the offensive line performed.

 

@ Redskins: 5 sacks   12 QB hits

Vs Vikings 0 sacks  2 QB hits

@ Cowboys: 3 sacks  7 QB hits

@ Giants: 2 sacks   7 QB hits

 

For context, here are the games Johnson played before getting suspended:

 

Vs Browns: 2 sacks   9 QB hits

@ Bears: 2 sacks  3 QB hits

Vs Steelers: 0 sacks   7 QB hits

@ Lions: 3 sacks   3 QB hits

The drop off wasn’t as much as it was made out to be. The second-year TCU product entered the game yesterday and left with a clean track record. The Carolina Defense will certainly be a test for Vaitai, but after trading Matt Tobin, the Eagles must feel confident that their fifth round pick last year can perform efficiently in place of their franchise tackle.

 

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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