The Eagles will keep Lane Johnson at right tackle, a source confirmed, while hoping that second-year swingman Halapoulivaati Vaitai can do a decent job in place of nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.
Earlier, this was what Johnson said he was assuming, before Wednesday afternoon’s walk-through, what Johnson clearly prefers, in the middle of the season, not really having prepared for a move.
“I think I’m better on the right for now. I haven’t had any reps over there. Not to say I can’t do it, but as far as what I’ve been playing,” said Johnson, who was drafted fourth overall in 2013 with the idea that he would one day succeed Peters.
Vaitai was not available to reporters.
The team officially placed Peters, 35, on injured reserve Wednesday with ACL and MCL tears in his right knee. Taylor Hart, a fifth-round pick back in 2014 when he was a 3-4 defensive end, was signed to fill Peters’ spot on the roster. Hart looked decent this spring and summer after converting to offensive tackle, but he had no remaining practice-squad eligibility and was cut at the end of the preseason.
“All my grades on Taylor when he was here were very high,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. Reich added that Hart “showed a lot of good signs.”
Dillon Gordon, the practice-squad tackle the Birds could have promoted instead of signing Hart, reacted to the news by tweeting “Hmmm ok,” with the “unamused face” emoji between the two words.
Reich made two things clear when he met with reporters – Peters leaves a big hole, and it will take a group effort to fill it.
“We have a lot of confidence in guys. Now, I’m not going to lie. Jason Peters is a rare player,” Reich said. “I have no problem saying – I’ve been around this game for 30 years, and I’ve been around some great offensive linemen, a lot of great offensive linemen … but Jason Peters is the best one I’ve been around.”
How do you survive such a loss?
“Obviously, you don’t want to lose a guy like that, but that’s the great thing about this game – no matter how great one player is, it’s not played by one player, whether you’re the quarterback or the left tackle,” Reich said. “And we pick each other up, the next guy steps in, we adjust things, we have confidence in each other, and then we develop and we grow together as a team. So, I believe that is what will happen.”
Reich expressed confidence in Vaitai and in Isaac Seumalo, the new swing tackle.
Reich said Vaitai “played solid” in a difficult situation, coming in cold for Peters when Peters went down early in the third quarter of Monday night’s victory over Washington.
Seumalo began the season as the starting left guard but lost that job to Stefen Wisniewski. On Wednesday, he spoke of his high regard for Peters.
“Dude’s the epitome of what you want to be in the National Football League. Not only a future Hall of Famer but really just a good person. It [stinks],” Seumalo said.
“Preparation changes a little bit, in terms of position, but I’m ready to go, whenever,” he said.
Seumalo predicted that “Big V’s going to do real well.”
The Eagles like to run to the left side. Wisniewski, asked if that would still be the case with Vaitai on his left, said: “I don’t really know. I think ‘V’ is a good run-blocker, and I think we’ll probably try to keep things as similar as we can.”
Best of Carson?
The touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Corey Clement Monday night, which Wentz threw just as he was disappearing underneath a pile of Washington Redskins, amazed everyone watching, including Frank Reich.
“I’ll tell you what – as coaches, we tend not to be too easily impressed, what impresses us is consistency over the long haul – but I have to say, the touchdown pass to Corey, I was impressed,” Reich said. He confirmed what Jon Gruden said on the Monday Night Football broadcast, that the play was one Wentz brought with him from the North Dakota State playbook, a favorite one whose options are second nature to the quarterback.
The other amazing part of the play was the catch that Clement made, the second career catch for the rookie running back from Wisconsin, who wasn’t used much in the passing game in college.
“That catch was a great catch. It wasn’t a good catch, that was a great catch,” Reich said. “How he got his feet down, how he adjusted to the ball – not a catch you would have expected him to make … Corey’s just a football player. That’s what we’ve seen from Day 1 with him. He loves ball. Just love seeing him on the field. That was a big play.”
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