Reports out of Wednesday’s practice indicated that Jason Peters will resume his role at left tackle, at least for this week while Lane Johnson nurses his nagging ankle injury. As you can imagine, Eagles fans weren’t too happy when they heard the news, but it’s for good reason.
Jordan Mailata has shown a lot of potential at left tackle and could be the long-term starter there. Replacing him with a 38-year-old who hasn’t looked good this season when healthy, probably isn’t the smartest move. But it seems like this entirely hinges on Johnson’ availability this week. He didn’t practice on Wednesday, but he was practicing in a limited capacity Thursday. We’ve seen throughout the year that whether Johnson practices or not doesn’t really indicate if he’ll play on gameday.
Johnson has battled this ankle injury all season, and he’s tried to play through it nearly every week. Given this week’s opponent and the NFC East implications of this matchup, not seeing Johnson at least suit up and try to fight through it would be surprising.
The real question is, if Johnson can go, what will the team do at left tackle? Derrick Gunn was able to shed some light on this question during his appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic this morning.
Here’s what the offensive line looked like during Wednesday’s practice, per Dave Zangaro:
From left to right: Jason Peters, Nate Herbig, Jason Kelce, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata.
If Johnson starts, it may look like this: Mailata, Peters, Kelce, Pryor, Johnson.
Truthfully, that could be the best starting line the Eagles have rolled out this season. They’ve had to mix and match all season with this offensive line. Regardless of which of those starting groups we see on Sunday, it will be the seventh different combination of starting lineman the Birds have put on the field so far this season.
If Johnson plays, the reality is he’ll probably get subbed out at some point. His ankle just isn’t fully healed, so we’ll continue to see him take a few plays off every game until that injury subsides.
So what will Doug Pederson do when Johnson comes out of the game? He could just resort to the starting line provided by Zangaro, but asking a young guy like Mailata to flip sides on the line mid-game seems like a tough ask. He’s just starting to settle in on the left side, asking him to play multiple positions along the line could throw off his development. Especially if they do it during the game.
I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of Peters checking out of the game, which is pretty much inevitable. They’ve played Brett Toth at tackle and they still have Sua Opeta as a backup at guard, so they would probably throw Opeta or Herbig in there if Peters checks out while Johnson is in the game. And if Johnson can’t go, with Peters then starting at left tackle, they would probably put Toth in the game whenever Peters hits the sideline.
This isn’t an easy situation to navigate by any means. The line has been a mash unit all season and it’s hard to envision it getting much better until after the bye week. But nonetheless, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has done an outstanding job getting this line ready to play every week. Whichever starting five we see on Sunday night, I’m sure they’ll be prepared.