Herremans to RT, Mathis to LG for Eagles

Todd Herremans is the Eagles' new starting right tackle. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

For a while today, it looked like the big Eagles news was that WRs Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith practiced, an encouraging step particularly in the case of Smith, who now cannot begin the season on the PUP list. (So the Eagles are confident he will play before Week 6, at least.)

But that news was trumped when Todd Herremans confirmed he is now the starting right tackle -- for good, as far as he knows, and Evan Mathis confirmed he is now the left guard, replacing Herremans.

"It felt good," Herremans said after the Eagles' indoor practice, as the first drops of Irene-related rain filtered down. "Obviously, it was a little foreign. It's going to take some time, but in a couple weeks, I'll be ready to roll."

Herremans, drafted as a tackle in 2005, was switched right away to guard, but has practiced occasionally at tackle and has played there in emergencies. When he was drafted, scouts felt he lacked ideal tackle arm-length.

"Only pair I've ever had," Herremans joked today.

"I was a tackle before I was a guard. It's going to feel comfortable eventually," he said. "I've just gotta get in there and get reps. I guess you just see a different type of rusher (at tackle). You're not blocking 350-pound guys anymore. You're going to see a little bit faster guys," as guard sometimes see when defenses are in nickel packages. "It's not like speed I haven't seen before. I'm excited."

Herremans will make at least a little more money as a tackle, based on escalator clauses in his contract.

Herremans said he hopes he can give first-round rookie right guard Danny Watkins "a little veteran help" as he works in.

Herremans has teased on Twitter about playing tackle. Talking to him and to other o-linemen today, it seemed they felt this move was coming. King Dunlap, who started against the Browns Thursday, is inexperienced and erratic, and Ryan Harris, the veteran free agent signee, will undergo back surgery tomorrow, Eagles coach Andy Reid confirmed. Reid said today that returning starter Winston Justice is close to returning from knee surgery, but obviously, Justice must not be close enough that the Eagles think he will be ready to start the regular season.

Mathis, meanwhile, is a seven-year vet who has started for the Panthers and Bengals, and backed up for the Dolphins. He said today he last started in 2009, in Cincinnati.

"It looks like an opportunity's opened up here, and I'm ready to make the most of it," he said.

"I think I can play 'em all well, but I can play left guard great," Mathis said. "That's my home spot."

Mathis predicted that Herremans "will do great" at tackle.

"Todd's a very athletic, very smart player," Mathis said. "He's the kind of guy that will always do what it takes. If there's anything wrong, he'll just figure out what it is and correct it."

Herremans and Mathis said they found out about the moves Friday, the day after a confused performance by the first-unit offensive line against the Browns.