Halapoulivaati Vaitai has started working at left tackle some, mostly when Jason Peters isn’t practicing. With Allen Barbre traded to Denver and Matt Tobin dispatched to Seattle, Vaitai is now the Eagles’ swing tackle – the guy who comes off the bench if either Peters or Lane Johnson goes down.
Most likely, if Peters got hurt, the coaching staff would move Johnson from right tackle to left and have Vaitai play his natural right side, but it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen in games, when as Doug Pederson noted Tuesday, the Eagles might activate only seven offensive linemen. The two active reserves have to be versatile – typically, they are a guard who can fill in at center, and a tackle who can play either side.
Vaitai, a fifth-round draftee last year from TCU who started six games, was always going to make this year’s team. That wasn’t necessarily so for Dillon Gordon, an undrafted rookie last year who is still trying to master the tackle position after splitting time between there and tight end at LSU. But clearly, with Barbre and Tobin no longer factoring in the math, Gordon, too, seems to be in a strong spot. The Eagles will keep anywhere from 8 to 10 o-linemen on the 53-man roster.
“I’m really comfortable” with younger backups, Pederson said Tuesday. “I don’t think you make these moves if you’re not comfortable with the guys that are working.”
Pederson lumped Gordon in with converted defensive end Taylor Hart and undrafted Oklahoma State rookie Victor Salako when he observed that “these next couple of weeks will be important for these younger guys, to see where they’re at and really solidify a role on this team.”
But judging from practices and the first two preseason games, Gordon, also being used as a fullback, definitely seems to be ahead of Hart or Salako.
“I think I’m way more comfortable now, just being in Year 2, and taking everything that Jason Peters tells me to heart and using it out there on the field,” Gordon said.
“They got rid of Big Al Day 1. Nobody kind of saw that coming. Then, the Tobin thing just caught all of us off guard; I think it happened right after [Monday] practice. We got out of practice and he told us that he’d gotten traded … We’re all happy for him, he has a chance to start,” Gordon said.
Vaitai said he learned a lot from Tobin: “Continue that legacy, and don’t let the coaches down,” he said.
“I’m trying to get the rhythm down on the left side … I go up to Jason Peters, ‘Hey Jason, what do I need to work on?’ He said, ‘You just need to get to your spot.’ More and more, I get used to it. I’m not comfortable with it, yet, but I’m just trying to get that muscle memory down.”
Pederson said Seattle called the Eagles about Tobin, who was traded with a seventh-round pick next spring for a fifth-rounder.
Nick still nicked?
Nick Foles returned to practice recently after missing the first two preseason games with elbow soreness, but the backup QB sat out Tuesday’s work and apparently won’t play in Thursday’s preseason contest against the Dolphins.
Doug Pederson said he just wanted to give Foles’ elbow more rest. “He got a lot of throws in these last couple days, so we just wanted to take a little off him today,” Pederson said. He said Foles would be OK to play if this were the regular season.
Foles has been bothered by a flexor tendon strain and nerve inflammation, dating back to last season in Kansas City. The Eagles don’t think there is anything structurally wrong.
Doug Pederson said that starters normally play into the third quarter in the third preseason game, but he hasn’t decided whether that will be the case Thursday. He wants to make sure everyone is healthy … Though Bryce Treggs was fined $25,000 for his concussion-causing hit on Damarious Randall at Green Bay, rookie safety Tre Sullivan, who concussed Malachi Dupre, said he did not hear from the league … Miami defensive end Cameron Wake is 35 now, but still shows great intensity in training camp practices. “I enjoy it. I like stress. I like fight. I like to grind. I feel like it separates people.,” Wake said after Tuesday’s second joint practice between the Dolphins and the Eagles. “Everybody is going to be great in shorts and shoulder pads, playing two plays, coming off of the field and going through the bags. That’s great. But what happens if you’ve got 10 plays in a row, it’s hot and you’re a little beat up? That’s going to separate the men from the boys. That’s going to show your true nature … that’s what’s going to make guys want to line up next to you in the regular season or not. We all know. Everybody strapping up the pads knows if this guy’s going to be a wolf or he’s a sheep. Those are the kind of guys you want. There’s only one way to see it, and it’s to add a little bit of fire.”