49ers – Eagles: It’s Vaitai at Left Tackle
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — As expected second-year player Halapoulivaati Vaitai will replace the injured Jason Peters at left tackle when the winless San Francisco 49ers visit Lincoln Financial Field.
Peters, who tore both the ACL and MCL is his right knee Monday night against the Redskins, is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and among Philadelphia's most important players.
The Eagles could have flipped star right tackle Lane Johnson over to the left side and inserted Vaitai at right tackle but have decided to keep the status quo at one position and give Vaitai at least the opportunity to handle things on Carson Wentz's blind side.
On the open portion of pracice Thursday Johnson remained at his familiar RT position with Vaitai taking the reps on the other side.
Vaitai, a fifth-round pick out of TCU in 2016, played both right and left tackle in college where he was a two-time All-Big 12 second-team selection as a member of the Horned Frogs.
As a rookie in Philadelphia Vaitai started six games for the Eagles last season as the replacement for Johnson at right tackle while the latter was serving a PED suspension.
Sunday is an important game for Vaitai with Tuesday's trade deadline looming. A poor performance against a bad team could have Howie Roseman calling around for a left tackle and ironically one that might be available is 49ers veteran Joe Staley.
The price for Staley, a 33-year-old five-time Pro Bowl selection, could be steep, however.
“Joe is a guy that I definitely want here and definitely a guy I wouldn’t want to lose by any means," Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this week. "If anybody called for any one of our players, it’s not like you just hang up the phone. If people want to offer the world, you’ve always got to listen.”
For now, the Eagles brought back former defensive lineman Taylor Hart to fortify the depth behind Johnson, Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo on the 53-man roster and offensive coordinator Frank Reich said the early returns on Vaitai replacing Peters against the Redskins were good.
"He played solid," Reich said of Vaitai. "I mean, he played solid. That's a tough thing to do, to walk in and not only just to play that position, but filling in in those shoes right there for Jason Peters, but he did a good job."
THURSDAY NOVACARE NOTES:
-Every available Eagles player with the exception of Jordan Hicks, who remains on the roster for now despite his torn Achilles practiced. Cornerback Ronald Darby, who is still trying to make it back from the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 1 practiced in a limited fashion for the fifth consecutive time dating back to last week.
The other banged-up players: DT Beau Allen (foot), DE Brandon Graham (shoulder), WR Alshon Jeffery (groin), DT Timmy Jernigan (ankle), LB Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), RB Wendell Smallwood (knee) and DT Destiny Vaeao (wrist) all were full participants.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen