For Barbre, it's a start

Eagles offensive lineman Allen Barbre. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

THE LAST TIME Allen Barbre got an extended NFL starting opportunity, it didn't go very well.

This was 2009, his third season with the Packers. Mark Tauscher, the team's longtime starting right tackle, had torn the ACL in his left knee the previous season and wasn't re-signed.

Barbre, who had been selected by the Packers in the fourth round of the '07 draft, was named his replacement and started the first seven games of the '09 season.

He wasn't awful, but he wasn't good either. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked 31 times in those first seven games. Barbre gave up six of them. He also allowed six quarterback hits and 21 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.


The best thing about this August is:

In mid-October, the Packers sent out an SOS to Tauscher, who was 32 and just 10 months removed from ACL surgery. He replaced Barbre at right tackle in Week 8, and the Packers, who were 4-3 in Barbre's seven starts, rallied to win seven of their last nine games and qualified for the playoffs.

Five years later, Barbre, 30, finally is getting another starting opportunity. He will be the Eagles' season-opening right tackle, replacing Lane Johnson, who has been suspended for the first four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Last year, Barbre was the sixth man on an extraordinarily healthy Eagles offensive line that missed zero starts and a collective 90 snaps.

Barbre played 89 of those missed snaps, including 52 for left tackle Jason Peters when he suffered a quad injury in the first quarter of the Eagles' 27-13 Week 10 win over the Packers. He turned in a solid performance against his old team, which helped earn him a 3-year, $4.35 million contract extension in June.

But it's one thing to fill in for 52 snaps and another to fill in for four important, early season games, including two against playoff teams (Colts, 49ers) and a third against what may be their toughest division opponent (Redskins).

Barbre also has had to move back over to the right side, where he hasn't really played since he was released by the Packers prior to the 2010 season.

"It's a work in progress," Barbre said yesterday. "I wouldn't say I've been perfect. Just got to keep on working. That's been my goal and how I've approached it. I'm not going to be happy until I'm playing well."

His coach insists he already is.

"Allen's done a nice job," Chip Kelly said. "I'm really happy that we have him."

But others have their concerns about Barbre. In the preseason opener against the Bears, it was his man who hit Nick Foles' arm and helped force the first of the quarterback's two interceptions.

Last week against the Patriots, linebacker Rob Ninkovich got around Barbre and sacked Foles for a 6-yard loss on a third-and-8 play.

NFL Network's Brian Baldinger, a former offensive lineman who is the television analyst for the Eagles' preseason games, has reservations about Barbre. Thinks the Eagles' other top backup offensive lineman, 6-6, 290-pound second-year man Matt Tobin, is a better athletic fit for this unit than Barbre.

"He's not nearly as athletic as Lane or the rest of the line," Baldinger said. "He just isn't. They don't even look the same. This guy doesn't run like everyone else.

"It will help that [Week 1 opponent] Jacksonville doesn't have a great [pass-rusher] out there, and [Week 2 foe] Indy will be without [Robert] Mathis [like Johnson, serving a PED suspension].

"Then you have the Redskins. He'll see [Ryan] Kerrigan. But Kerrigan's more a power guy than a speed guy. So he might be able to lock up with him there.

"San Francisco [their Week 4 opponent], I don't know what's going to happen with Aldon Smith. He plays on the other side anyway and doesn't come over much. But they've got Ahmad Brooks who is pretty good."

Baldinger has been impressed by Tobin, a natural tackle who was moved inside to guard this summer so that he would know how to play both inside and outside, like Barbre.

"Tobin has opened my eyes," Baldinger said. "He's had two real good games in a row. He runs better than all of the other guards. That's why, sometimes, the second line has looked better than the first. They look faster. Lane [who has been bumped to the second team so that the Eagles can get Barbre first-team snaps], Tobin, Dennis Kelly, they all can run."

Barbre's switch to right tackle from left tackle has been an adjustment. Nobody knows the difficulty of that better than the man lining up next to him, veteran right guard Todd Herremans.

Herremans has played all four guard and tackle positions during his career. He has started 71 games at left guard, six at left tackle, 16 at right guard and 23 at right tackle.

"Right now, he's working on his balance and stuff," Herremans said. "Switching over from the left side to the right, you've got to kind of reset yourself to know where to hold your weight, which hand to be strong with and stuff like that. But he's doing good. He's getting better every day.

"I felt like last game [against New England], there were quite a few plays where we were playing together rather than out there blocking guys one-on-one. And that's what you really need to get it down to. Where all five of us feel like we're playing together and we're able to pass stuff off a lot easier."

Center Jason Kelce said, with the exception of giving up the sack to Ninkovich last week, Barbre has played very well.

"He's been one of our most consistent guys out there," Kelce said. "We knew it was going to be a process. Not only is he sliding out to tackle [from guard], but he's also switching sides. So it's a different stance. That changes up positioning and everything just a little bit. But he's doing great."

Said Barbre: "Playing offensive line is all about balance and footwork and being in the right position to make the block. Sometimes, switching from one side to the other, it's all backwards. What you did with the left foot on the left side you have to do opposite with the right foot. But it's coming."

He has waited 5 years for redemption. He can wait a few more weeks.


On Twitter: @Pdomo