The Eagles’ left guard competition continues this week without resolution, although the coaching staff could settle on one player by the end of the week.
After demoting Isaac Seumalo last week, the Eagles turned to a combination of Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski in last Sunday’s 27-24 win over the New York Giants. Warmack started the game and played 58 percent of the snaps; Wisniewski, who was the better of the two, took the other 42 percent of the snaps. They rotated throughout the game, and coach Doug Pederson compared it to rotating wide receivers.
The Eagles practiced Wednesday for the first time this week, but it did not offer clarity about who will start Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Warmack played left guard with the starting offense and Wisniewski played center because Jason Kelce was limited with a knee injury. Pederson said he was giving Kelce a rest day and that Warmack and Wisniewski will rotate at guard during practice this week. He will “probably” make a decision about what to do at left guard by Friday afternoon. Neither player revealed what the plan will be this weekend.
“Whether it’s rotating guys…or picking one guy and saying, ‘It’s your job to lose’…that’ll be determined as we go on during the week,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Either scenario can work. There’s still a lot of football left to be played, so plenty of chances for things to work out.”
Wisniewski, 28, played the best of any of three left guards this season. He was pleased with how he performed, helping to propel the running game. He’s also the most experienced of the group, starting 83 games in his career, including six games last season. He’s familiar with playing between Jason Peters and Kelce from last season.
“It was definitely helpful that I know those guys and they’re smart, older players,” Wisniewski said. “It’s fairly easy for a guy like me to step in there and make it work.”
Peters called Wisniewski a “technician” and noted how “he’s almost like a center at guard, which he really is, and he knows the offense, giving calls, more of a communicator.” That makes sense because Wisniewski has spent most of his career at center and is Kelce’s backup.
Since arriving in Philadelphia last season, the Penn State product insisted he was a starting-level player. He was never a backup in the NFL before coming to Philadelphia. Wisniewski signed a three-year, $8.025-million contract in March, a surprise then because it was expected that he would pursue an opportunity where he could be a full-time starter. He acknowledged it’s “been tough” coming off the bench.
“I still do think I’m a starting-quality player,” Wisniewski said. “I think I showed that when I played in there last year, and I think I showed that last week. I’ll continue to try to keep showing that whenever I get a shot …I knew coming back there was a chance I’d be a starter, but it was also possible I wouldn’t be. I was mentally prepared for both.”
Still, he never received that opportunity during the summer. After the Eagles moved on from incumbent Allen Barbre, they turned to Seumalo. It made sense for the team’s long-term plans because Seumalo was a 2016 third-round pick who the team hopes develops with Carson Wentz, but Wisniewski and Warmack both had significant starting experience and could have competed for the job. Wisniewski spent most of training camp and preseason as second-team center. He didn’t focus on guard again until he took scout-team work there a few weeks ago. Asked if he was surprised he didn’t get the opportunity, he said he’s spent enough time in the NFL that “nothing surprises you.”
“At the time we felt very comfortable with Isaac,” Pederson said. “Isaac is the guy that came out of last season in a positive light, and the guy going forward that we felt and I felt as a coach that he was going to be the guy, and listen, he’s still in the mix. I mean, nobody is down on him. We continue to rep him just like we do the other guys and get them all ready to play.”
Pederson emphasized Wednesday that the Eagles remain optimistic about Seumalo. He compared it to sitting Nelson Agholor last season. But Pederson admitted that Seumalo is not a starting candidate for Sunday.
Warmack, who Peters said is “more of an aggressor,” was tough on himself about last Sunday’s game. He added he’s always that way after games, trying to find ways to improve. The Eagles gave Warmack a contract extension before the season and believe the former first-round pick has talent to hone. His run-blocking ability is considered a strength.
But if the Giants game is the barometer, Wisniewski likely earned himself a shot at the job. More clarity should come by the end of the week.
“I’m preparing for anything,” Wisniewski said. “You never know where I’m going to have to play.”