Vaitai In the Mix at Right Tackle
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Allen Barbre has played so well at left guard this season that the Eagles are considering keeping the veteran there even if Lane Johnson’s presumed 10-game PED suspension is upheld by the NFL.
The Eagles expect that Johnson will play Sunday in Detroit but his status after that is in question after the appeal of the suspension concluded in New York on Tuesday.
A decision is expected on Johnson’s appeal in a week to 10 days, putting his Week 6 status in serious doubt.
If the penalty is upheld as expected, the original plan was for Barbre to kick out from left guard to right tackle with veteran Stefen Wisniewski stepping in at LG. Another possibility emerged Tuesday when Ed Werder reported that the team may want to keep Barbre at left guard with rookie fifth-round pick Halapoulivaati Vaitai taking over at RT, something Doug Pederson confirmed Wednesday morning.
"It’s something we’re considering," the Eagles coach admitted. "We still have the original (plan) like we talked about before where we move Allen out and possibly put Wisniewski at LG, but I have to take in all the information. And it’s a situation where if we can tweak one spot and not two, it could be better for us that way."
Through the Eagles impressive 3-0 start, Johnson has been one of the team’s best players, rated as the third-best offensive tackle in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com, behind only Tennessee’s Taylor Lewan and Washington’s Trent Williams.
Barbre, meanwhile, has been almost as good, rating as the fourth best OG, trailing only Justin Pugh of the NY Giants, Zack Martin of Dallas and Marshall Yanda of Baltimore.
Upsetting the apple cart at two areas of strength instead of one clearly has Pederson concerned.
"Allen Barbre has been playing great at left guard,” the coach said. “If you don’t have to disrupt two positions and just do one, I think there’s some conversation there that we have to have.”
Vaitai spent most of training camp as the third-team right tackle behind Johnson and Dennis Kelly, who was eventually traded for receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Even after that move, however, “Big V” was kept deep on the depth chart when Barbre started taking reps at RT with the ones in case Johnson was suspended for Week 1.
Things have changed since the 53-man roster was put together, however.
"(Vaitai’s) been going against our starting defensive line for all of the regular season so far, so the work he has done in that capacity against a good defensive line gives us confidence,” Pederson explained. “If we had to (put the rookie at RT) we could do that and not bat an eye."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen