Allen Barbre has started just seven games in six NFL seasons. But unless he gets injured in the next five weeks or seriously underperforms, he will be the Eagles’ starting right tackle for the first four regular-season games, replacing Lane Johnson, who will be serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Even though Johnson is allowed to participate in training camp and play in the preseason, Barbre took the first-team reps at right tackle Saturday as the Eagles held their first training camp practice at the NovaCare Complex.
“We got to get another guy ready,’’ head coach Chip Kelly said before practice. “Allen will start out there. Obviously we have to prepare for our first four games. So we’ve got to get the guy who is going to be the starting right tackle for the first four games in there.
We still have to develop Lane. So he’ll get reps. But they won’t be with the first team right now.’’
Johnson will not be able to practice with the team or even work out at NovaCare during his four-game suspension. He said Friday he is in the process of trying to find a place to train during his suspension.
Kelly wasn’t ready to name Barbre the team’s season-opening starting right tackle Saturday. But it’s clearly his job to lose.
“It doesn’t matter who starts today,’’ he said. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to start there for the Jacksonville game.’’
In early June, just two weeks after the team found out about Johnson’s positive drug test, they gave Barbre a three-year contract extension. But Kelly said the timing was strictly coincidental.
“We had been working on that for a while,’’ Kelly said. “The timing had nothing to do with Lane. We think Allen is an integral part of what we’re doing and we wanted to make sure we kept him here.’’
Barbre, who can play both inside and outside, spent last year as the team’s top offensive line backup. He impressed Kelly and the coaching staff with his play in a November win over the Packers when he replaced injured left tackle Jason Peters.
“He’s big, he’s physical, he’s a very, very strong-handed guy,’’ Kelly said. “When he gets his hands on people he can really move people. He’s got a great understanding. He has great flexibility in terms of being a guard-tackle for us.
“He got some extended playing time in the Green Bay game last year when Jason was out and he did a really, really nice job at left tackle. The biggest thing is him transitioning over to the right side and getting comfortable. That’s why we felt on day one we need to get him reps at right tackle.’’
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