When Doug Pederson was asked Monday about replacing starting left guard Isaac Seumalo, Pederson spoke of not wanting to “push any panic buttons at this time.” He said that though evaluations would continue, “as of right now, we’re not going to make any changes.”
Turns out, “right now” covered an extremely finite period. Say, during the news conference.
There was no official confirmation, but the upshot from Wednesday’s practice was that Chance Warmack has supplanted Seumalo for Sunday’s home opener against the New York Giants.
This came as a surprise to reporters and to many of the Eagles, despite Seumalo’s struggles in last Sunday’s 27-20 loss at Kansas City, in which Seumalo seemed to have a hand in four of the six sacks the team allowed.
After Sunday’s game, right guard Brandon Brooks spoke of the need to “rally around” Seumalo, a player Brooks said was “going to be a great player for a long time.”
Wednesday, Brooks, like other offensive linemen, expressed confidence in Warmack, who is a former Titans first-round pick. But Brooks also seemed taken aback.
“The change is quick and sudden … That’s how the league is. Isaac will get through it,” Brooks said. “We’re here to support him while also supporting Chance, now that he’s in there.
“It’s just unfortunate, man, to see a young guy have to sit down like that, because he had a bad game … You don’t want to just kill his confidence, this early in his career. A bad game, that happens. I wish he could kinda like just work through it. Everybody has a bad game, everybody gets beat. I just wish he had a chance to bounce back, you know what I mean?”
Center Jason Kelce said Warmack “is a great player, as is [backup guard/center] Stefen Wisniewski, as is Isaac … Whoever’s out there, we’ll be fine.”
Of Seumalo, Kelce said: “I think he’s getting a bad rap right now, unfortunately … Very smart guy, and I think he’s a very physically gifted player … the biggest thing right now is to keep his confidence going, to keep him going out there and being aggressive … I’m still in full support of Isaac.”
Seumalo, a third-round pick in 2016 who was the first Eagle drafted after Carson Wentz, is considered a long-term building block. He was installed as a starter as training camp began, the team trading away his major competition, veteran Allen Barbre.
“I learned about it when you guys learned about it, today on the practice field,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We’re excited to see what [Warmack] can do. But Isaac’s going to be a heckuva player in this league, I don’t think he should take it too hard. These first two games, we’ve played some really good players. I think he has a very bright future in this league, but we’re excited to see what Chance can do.
“We were in the same draft class. He was the [10th] overall pick for a reason. He’s huge, obviously. He’s really strong. He’s really good in the run game.”
Seumalo did not speak with reporters Wednesday, other than to say “I’m good,” when asked how he was doing.
Warmack seemed antsy about confirming much of anything. He started all 48 games he was healthy enough to play in for Tennessee over four seasons, but was allowed to become a free agent last offseason. The Titans considered him a disappointment. He signed with the Eagles because Birds offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland coached him at Alabama and said he could restore Warmack’s potential. At 6-2, 323, Warmack is shorter and thicker than Seumalo, 6-4, 303.
“We don’t know that,” Warmack said, when asked about becoming a starter, after being inactive for his first two games as an Eagle. “Whatever the team asks of me, I’m here to do whatever they need me to do.”
Warmack said he was “trying to progress more into the situation.”
Warmack seemed to be saying he didn’t take all the first-team reps Wednesday, but others indicated he had.
“They had me doing everything. I’m not really in a position to tell you specifically, like, what’s going on in terms of the reps, but I’m all over the place – right, left, the ones, the twos,” Warmack said. “We’re going to hear from the coaches, man. We’re going to see what happens. Either way, I’m going to prepare like I am [starting].”
Right tackle Lane Johnson said Warmack “has worked hard … trying to get better with his hands, his leverage.”
Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich seemed supportive of Seumalo this week, and downplayed the idea of change. Reich won’t speak again with reporters until next Tuesday, Pederson until this Friday.
Reich pretty much said Tuesday that it wasn’t time yet to bench Seumalo.
“When you see an individual get beat once or twice in a game, you don’t like it, but it happens to literally everybody who suits up … Now, if that happens over five, six, seven games, then it becomes a problem and you evaluate it,” Reich said. “When it happens in one game, you say ‘OK. We take note of it. But we have a lot of confidence, we’ve been working hard, we believe in our guys.’ Whether it’s Isaac or whether it’s another guy, it happens in this league. We fight to get better. And then you evaluate over the long haul.”
The long haul seems to have gotten shorter.