Ready or Not, Johnson is Back as a Starter
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Coincidence or not the Eagles season turned the minute Lane Johnson started serving his 10-game PED suspension.
Philadelphia was 3-1 with its star right tackle and 2-8 without him as the Texas native gets set to return on Thursday night against the New York Giants.
In his absence the Eagles have used four different bodies at the position as Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Isaac Seumalo all got reps. Each has suffered some kind of injury with Vaitai dealing with an MCL sprain, Barbre nursing a hamstring, Tobin on injured reserve with a knee problem, and Seumalo joining the walking wounded on Sunday in Baltimore when he tweaked an ankle.
And that means, ready or not, Johnson will be inserted back in the starting lineup on a short week against the Giants.
“Isaac Seumalo is hurt and Big V is coming off a knee injury and Allen Barbre is injured. So, what else do I have left?” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Monday when explaining his plan. “I’m just going, ‘Lane, you’re the guy. I don’t care if you are X weight. You’ve got to play.’”
And Johnson coming off 2 ½ months of inactivity is still the Eagles’ best option at the position. In fact, it’s not close as the former No. 4 overall pick had turned into one of the two or three best right tackles in the game before his suspension.
Pederson, meanwhile, is hopeful Seumalo could go against New York despite his ailing ankle and the rookie could be moved back inside as the starter at left guard in that scenario.
With the playoffs no longer in the picture, getting more looks at Seumalo should be of more importance than keeping veteran Stefen Wisniewski starting or even Barbre for that matter.
“He does have the ankle sprain,” Pederson said of Seumalo. “It’s going to be day-to-day with him to see where he’s at. But Isaac came out of this game and I mean, he played well for his first right tackle start. He played extremely well. We got a great player in Isaac and a versatile player that can play any of those positions now along the lines. He gives us a little more depth these last couple of weeks. He will definitely factor in.”
In other injury news, Pederson expects Vaitai back at practice at least and veteran running back Darren Sproles is cleared from concussion protocol. Also, tight end Brent Celek (stinger) and receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) are both expected to play on the short week.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen