Short Week Will Prove Problematic for Lane Johnson
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Short weeks in the NFL are generally problematic for everyone and the Eagles have an added hurdle to deal with after coach Doug Pederson confirmed Monday that star right tackle Lane Johnson is indeed in the NFL's concussion protocol.
Johnson left Sunday's emphatic 34-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals at halftime with the Eagles leading 21-7. Second-year man Halapoulivaati Vaitai entered in the second half and ended up playing one more snap than Johnson (34 to 33).
"Big V came in and started the third quarter and we went down and got the points right away," Pederson said. "He played good, played solid. He's one that the more he plays, the better he gets. Even on a short week, for him not getting a ton of reps at tackle, to come in off the bench like he does, it's just a tribute to the way he prepares himself, the way he battles. Gets better every time he's out there."
Timing alone means Johnson is very unlikely to play Thursday in Charlotte and Pederson admitted that the Eagles will move forward assuming that Vaitai will be the RT against the Panthers.
"It's tough based on the protocol and what the players have to go through," Pederson said. "Again, I'll find out this afternoon, but it's hard on a short week."
There are a number of steps Johnson will need to go through ending with clearance from an independent neurologist, a cycle that is far more likely in an average week where the game is on Sunday.
“The players don’t really get any time off,” Pederson said. “This is typically their time to rest and recover. They don’t get that this week.”
Johnson's absence from the lineup in the past has been problematic as the Eagles finished 2-8 without him in 2016 as he was forced to sit with a PED suspension. Vaitai filled in as a rookie for a number of those games and struggled at times.
Conversely, with Johnson in the lineup the Eagles are 9-2 over the past two seasons.
Pederson also confirmed that Issac Seumalo, who was benched after performing poorly at the starting left guard position, will see some work at tackle in practice and will likely serve as the backup swing tackle against the Panthers if Johnson is out as expected.
Seumalo played RT against Baltimore last season in an emergency circumstance and actually held up pretty well.
Seumalo is versatile and has played every offensive line position dating back to his college days at Oregon State.
Meanwhile, while the Eagles will continue to rotate at LG with Stefen Wisniewski and Chance Warmack, Pederson said Wisniewski has earned more playing time with his performance since taking over as the starter.
Against the Cards, Wisniewski played in 63 percent of the offensive snaps while Warmack was at 37 percent.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen