Season Predictions: The Offensive Line Without Lane

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
As we count down to the start of the regular season, Tim and Sheil try to answer some of the big questions facing the Eagles. On Sunday, they discussed life without DeSean Jackson. Yesterday, they predicted what’s next for Nick Foles. Today, a look at the offensive line, which faces an early challenge as Lane Johnson serves his four-game suspension.

BIG QUESTION: How much will the absence of Lane Johnson impact this football team?

McManus: I think it’s a bigger deal than many have made it out to be. You’re talking about a top-end talent at one of the most important positions in football missing at least a quarter of a season. His replacement, Allen Barbre, is a journeyman who hasn’t started a game in five years. I thought Barbre looked shaky in the preseason. That’s to be expected during the acclimation process, but there is little room for error starting Sunday.

Having the same five start all 16 last season was big for this team. The parts up front are inter-connected so familiarity is key.  Now Todd Herremans has to learn the tendencies of a new dance partner — a challenge, even for a seasoned pro. If something’s off, there can be a ripple effect across the entire line.

It might not always be pretty but I think the Eagles line can absorb this hit. The bigger fear is that they lose another starter during the early part of the season. Then they’d be in trouble. If nothing else, the absence of Johnson leaves them vulnerable.

Kapadia: To me, this has become a bigger concern during the preseason. The right side of the line is a real question mark in pass protection.

Barbre played 86 snaps last year, and the bulk of that came against Green Bay, filling in for Jason Peters. What some forget about that game is Clay Matthews was playing with a giant club on his arm. The guy is good, but rushing the passer with one arm is difficult for anybody.

Barbre had some issues in pass protection during the preseason. What’s encouraging for the Eagles is that coaches seemed to think the problems were due to fixable errors in technique. Still, there were issues.

Todd Herremans played well in the preseason, but his weakness last year was in pass pro. Combine that with Barbre’s inexperience, and you have a question mark on the right side of the line.

OVER/UNDER: Number of Eagles offensive linemen to make the Pro Bowl this year: 2 1/2

McManus: Under.

Johnson is not eligible for selection to the Pro Bowl this season. It would be tough for him to make it anyway given the amount of time he’ll miss. I’ll say two out of the Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Evan Mathis trio will make it.

Kapadia: I’m feeling bold this morning. Let’s go over!

Anything short of a Pro Bowl year out of Kelce would be a disappointment. He played well last year, and that was while coming off of an ACL injury. With another year to build up strength and learn the system, he’s in for a big season.

Unless he plays horribly or gets injured, Peters is going to make it. Barring 2012 when he missed the year with the Achilles’ injury, he’s gone to the Pro Bowl every season since joining the Eagles.

So then it comes down to Mathis. He’s 32-years-old, but has picked up steam nationally in the last two years. It’s always tough to make the first Pro Bowl, but now more people know who he is. Mathis has been unbelievably consistent for three straight years. There’s a chance his play slips in 2014, but I think he’s got a good shot at another Pro Bowl berth.


McManus: I’ll say that Johnson doesn’t get re-inserted back into the starting lineup until after the Week 7 bye.

Johnson will spend much of the next four weeks at a training facility in Dallas. He can talk to players but cannot communicate with coaches. Without being able to practice with the team, I think it will be very difficult for him to step back in and be ready to go against the Rams in Week 5. The Giants are the following week, and then the bye. Could be that Chip Kelly eases Johnson back in, especially if Barbre is playing well. If Barbre is struggling big time, forget I ever wrote this.

Kapadia: Matt Tobin will see some action and prove he’s capable of being an above-average starter for this team.

In case you can’t tell, I was extremely impressed with Tobin’s play this preseason. And when I talk to other offensive linemen on the team, they point to him as a guy that looks ready to play (and play at a high level) now.

I don’t know how Tobin will get on the field. Maybe it’s injury, or maybe it’s poor performance by one of the starters. But he’ll show he can play, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he’s penciled in as a starter going into 2015.

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  • Token

    I think the question is what will Lane Johnson be now? Same guy? Better? Worse? Hes off the PEDs that I kinda think he was on for awhile. Did it affect his performance much? Will he be worse off?

    Even if it has no effect, I dont expect to see a improved LJ this season. I think all this will stunt his progress. And the point made above about him possibly not playing til after the bye could happen.

    Barbre worries me out there. Foles lead the league in time taken to throw the ball last year. I dont know that he will have that luxury now. Hes gotta make quicker decisions. Which is something I want to see anyway.

    • JofreyRice

      I don’t think he’s a Shawn Merriman guy. I have to imagine he’s still pretty damn athletic. I’m assuming he passed any and all drug testing before the insane combine workout. Kelly’s scheme, with getting the linemen on the move delivering aggressive blocks is about the best scheme for him to play in particularly, and the scheme seems to favor OL generally–the whole second unit looked pretty deadly. I agree he might not take a big step forward, but I don’t think he’ll take a significant step back, either.

      I’d keep Barbre on a short leash. As well as he played in limited duty, he was pretty bad in the preseason. There are guys on that second unit I’d like to see get a shot if Barbre can’t manage it.

  • I’d use the same line in the Over/Under for “How many OL will the Eagles draft next year?”

    praying these guys stay healthy

  • Broadcasting Wisdom

    Sheil, I am pretty sure Jason Peters is protecting Nick’s blindside, not Barbre. Perhaps you are confusing Foles with Vick, a common misconception.

    • CHRIS – CB with dreads

      beat me to it haha

    • TNA

      Doesn’t it depend on who Foles is “blocking”? If the guy he’s reading is on the left side, wouldn’t that become his blind side? But I get what you’re saying.

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      I was going to comment immediately after I read the sentence, but I figured I’d wait until I got down here because someone else had to notice that already.

    • JosephR2225

      Practically twins.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        whew, glad they are wearing jerseys

        • Andy Six Score and Four

          How do you know they didn’t swap jersies for that pic, just to mess with us?

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            maybe the real reason Lazor left was because Foles/Vick would switch seats during qb meetings. he didnt like all the behind his back laughing at him

        • Amar, CB who bought in

          I can tell them apart by the eyelashes.

          • paul from nc

            The sleeves give it away.

        • igglesfaninportland

          Dominant Hand always carries the Helmet

          • UKEagle99 à l’orange

            But, they know, we know that…

      • Travis Papa

        When both their careers are over they should do a buddy cop movie with Vick playing the part of a grisled old vet on the cusp of retirement like Danny Glover to Nick Foles crazy/hilarious Mel Gibson style partner. Has to be a great name for a movie like that

        • NickS, Combine Warrior


      • Brennan Hildebrandt

        It’s an optical illusion there the same height as well Vick isn’t actually standing right next to Foles he’s standing farther back.

    • Bert’s Bells

      He’s referring to Foles throwing passes with his left hand, like he did against Kelly’s Ducks.

    • sdk152

      Whoops! Thanks. Will fix. -SK

    • Philly0312

      Beat me to it as well

    • paul from nc

      Sheil is usually much better than this, he’s had a few factual errors lately.
      He needs to adjust his smoothie formula for the regular season.

  • update: we have more than 10 names already! thanks for the interest guys!
    I apologize to those who did not get in, I tried to get those who either emailed/responded first, or showed interest earlier in week. With more notice, could have made this larger. sorry again.

    Hey All:

    created a 10 man FFL league on ESPN. Pretty standard scoring, 10 team (2div. x 5), 6 in playoffs (div. winners get bye). 13 weeks RS + 3 playoffs

    Unless someone knows how to do otherwise, it is currently by invite? So I guess post an email here (I’ll repost this on next few comment sections).

    ***If anyone can join via link, let me know! Or if you know how to change settings.

    Birds 247 (public league)

    EDIT/ P.S. online snake draft currently set for saturday at noon. Likely to change, just had to pick a date. Heck, I may not be available then.
    Likely will have to be Friday or Saturday. maybe Thurs

    double edit: forgot thurs game. So, to those who want to play — we have to draft tonight, wednesday, or early thurs.

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton …. I’ll join up tonight after work.

    • truehaynes have you decided on a draft time yet?

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      let’s rock and roll. i’m taking all ‘allas!

      • dnabrice

        Considering this group, any ‘allas selections will be ridiculed. Good value to be found as a result!

      • NickS, Combine Warrior

        Hypothetical: It’s down into the 9th round and you have no QB. Would you take Romo?

        • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

          I took Murray in the 2nd because I had no RB… it was the worst feeling of my life.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            feel worse when he’s out for 6 weeks after 3rd game. he’s good, just made of glass

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            That was half of what was so painful about it. The other half was he was a cowboy. It was painful as a fantasy manager and an Eagles’ fan.

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            I took Dez 13th overall in a 12man league where I had the last pick. Hated it, but I had to.

          • this is a Disqus Downvote moment

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            Sorry I let everyone down.

          • Brennan Hildebrandt

            If there are still spots I want in I would love to join.

        • cliff h-MOAR white goons

          sure. i hate ‘allas fans, not really the team.

    • Eagles1018…Please no more du

      I suck at these so you want me to join

    • dnabrice

      First game is Thursday. Are you skipping week 1?

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        lol, yeah, this league is off to a rocky start. perfect!

    • dnabrice

      I’m interested. If you can post the link and league password, then we’ll be able to join. ESPN does provide a link that skips the password process.

    • jtre

      honored to lose to some of you

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        i stink at fantasy, havent played in over 10 yrs. i only follow eagles and ‘allas, so i couldnt even name 10 starting RBs in league right now.

    • dnabrice
    • Jason

      next time

      • sorry good brother. definitely have you as 54th man on roster. keep the phone handy.

        • Jason

          So I’m worse then Casey Matthews? Dear God, I’m going to go hang myself

      • hey jason – email?

    • Spaceman Spiff
    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      Looks like you’ve got 10 including yourself.

    • CHRIS – CB with dreads

      looks like you may have 10 but if not I want in!

    • aub32
    • NickS, Combine Warrior

      Just emailed you info. Good for tonight or tomorrow night.

  • JofreyRice

    Tobin’s impressive for hell as an UDFA that played his snaps at LT last year. He’s real hope for the future of the OLine, and if Barbre can’t hack it outside, he might be hope for the present.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    As I expected, Raiders named Carr their starting QB. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that Reggie doesn’t want to pay Schaub $8M to be a backup & the Rams need a QB. What does this mean to us? The Raiders may be interested in local hero Barkley to serve as backup to Carr if they deal Schaub. It also gives Barkley a plateau to compete for a starting gig. Stay tuned…

    • JofreyRice

      Yeah, I’d deal him for whatever they can get. I think Barkley’s decision making is going to be writing checks his arm can’t cash until his NFL career is over.

      • Andy

        Since it’s the Raiders, we can probably get a 1st in 2015 and a 1st in 2016 for Barkley.

    • Kev_H

      I don’t see it. Why would the Rams or the Raiders want to play musical QB chairs going in to the first week of the season? If the Raiders planned to go into the season with a rookie (Carr) and a vet (Schaub) with the hopes that ideally, the rookie shows up and plays, why would they change course now?

      Same thing with the Rams. If they strongly preferred Schaub (or Sanchez) over Hill as back up, they would have went out and acquired one of them knowing that Bradford was coming off of a serious injury.

  • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

    Season thoughts – Redskins addition

    I almost vomited reading this…

    • sprawl

      That was a tough read–glad they mentioned the fact that the first 90% of the article didn’t seem to have made much difference when he struggled in the pre-season.

      Seems like a lot of blame gets thrown around on the previous regime down there and then this year will just be better because nobody will be mean to him and everyone is a happy family now?

      That happy family thing works fine until you start to lose meaningful games and the doubts creep in. As much as we were bullish on Chip last year I think we all had some doubts when we were sitting there at 1-3 getting ready for game 5. Then we had the stretch against DAL and NYG where we went 10 quarters without scoring a single point on offense (1 FG at the spot where we got the ball on an INT).

      Will probably be a more interesting team to follow this year than NYG with Coughlin likely on his way out soon…

      • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

        Yea it sounds like a soap opera to me. “Leave Robby Alone!”, he just wants people to like him.

      • NickS, Combine Warrior

        Kind of amazing that were the #3 or 4 scoring offense and didn’t score for 10 quarters.

      • Kev_H

        Wonder what he’ll think when the ever so diplomatic DeSean Jackson comes off the field screaming at him?

        • Andy

          He will cry.

        • Omg…. he’ll be shattered.

    • Andy Six Score and Four

      One of the most important traits I look for in a quarterback is sensitivity. He needs to be finely attuned to what the public is saying about him and really take it to heart.

      ~No one, ever.

      • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

        “mommy time”

        • Andy Six Score and Four

          Just want to clarify, that while I make fun, I still fear the kid’s potential. I do think the sensitivity painted in that article could be a real detriment if it’s being accurately portrayed. I also thought it was a well written piece. I enjoyed reading it.

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            I think he has great potential, but if he’s that sensitive then he’ll have a hard time fulfilling it. It was well written for sure. The subject matter, however, made it hard for me to read.

          • OddBall

            He’s going nowhere fast. He may not last the entire first game. He can’t read a defense and has happy feet. Still makes terrible decisions when he runs. Got absolutely nailed on more than one occasion during preseason. Not sure what happened to him but he has looked like zilch during the pre-season. The player to be worried about is Cousins. He makes good, quick decisions and is accurate. He did beat out Nick F in college.

          • MagatBrackendale

            “… obvious reference to Shanahan, whose employees feared him so much that even long after they have stopped working with him, their words quiver when his name is raised.” Could explain a lot about the last couple of seasons in Washington. Seems Griffin is not the only “sensitive” one.

        • JofreyRice

          my goodness. I think I’ve seen the comparison between RG3 & McNabb a few times. The part of this article that talks about RG3 knowing when to take a few mph off his fastball, being goofy and “stalking his teammates” in paintball, having problems with the Shannahans & being all sensitive about the past, makes it seems like he’s actually McNabb reincarnated. Except McNabb accomplished a ton more.

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            Maybe that’s why I felt so sick reading it. It reminded me of things that I’ve locked into the dark recesses of my mind via therapy with Dr. (Jack) Daniels.

    • Kev_H

      Boy, that is sickening. But it’s great to know that the Redskin’s immediate future is all tied up in a sissy.

    • eaglesfan, 20-win failure

      wow. i couldn’t even make it to the end of the article. sounds like his ego is more fragile than his porcelain knee.

      • I couldn’t finish it either. That’s a head case right there.

  • TNA

    Chip just said that Carroll is their backup punt/kickoff returner (to Huff). If he does well, what a FA pickup.

    • TNA

      addendum – Carroll is the best fit in terms of blocking scheme and the way he hits holes. But Sproles, Boykin, Smith could all see return duties.

  • TNA

    Question: Do old people beat up young people?
    CK: I don’t know. Ask Bernard Hopkins

    Are we sure this guy wasn’t born and raised in Philly?

  • Kleptolia

    I don’t think this matters to anybody anymore, but I’ll put it out there, anyway:

    I have a theory about some of the Ducks on the roster. (Will Murphy, in particular.) It COULD be that CK is developing the next generation of coaches. He’s giving these guys NFL experience – necessary to get a foot in the door – and the chance to learn how coaching works at the highest level. They also know his playbook backwards and forwards.

    Stoutland and Azzinaro are amazing coaches, both Kelly guys, but they won’t be around forever. They will either retire or get hired elsewhere at some point.

    IF Kelly is letting a few Ducks get their wings wet, any coaching departures could be filled with the next man up.

    Again, no clue if this is an accurate idea. Just a thought.

    • aub32

      Stoutland came from Ala, unless I’m missing some earlier stint when he worked under Kelly.

      • Kleptolia

        Sorry, I screwed up putting him in with Azz. Thanks for the correction.

    • Jason

      Interesting idea, however, why not just give Murphy an internship?

      • Kleptolia

        I was thinking that it would help a guy who wants to eventually become a coach to have actually played the game. That way, he can better connect to the players.
        Of course, the obvious hole in that thinking is that Chip himself never played in the NFL.

    • Kev_H

      I don’t see that in the hyper competitive NFL. I’d hate to meet with my owner after a losing or failed season and have to explain that I was short talent or players because I was developing future coaches with the 53 man roster. I’m pretty sure that would get me fired.

      • Kleptolia

        Murphy isn’t on the 53, though.
        But I understand your point of view. You’re not wrong.

    • MagatBrackendale

      Didn’t Huff say he thought he knew Chip’s playbook backward and forward only to find it quite different in the NFL?

      • Kleptolia

        Yes, but Murphy’s been on the team for 2 years now. He should know it well enough.

  • JofreyRice

    I know a lot of folks here read @smartfootball ‘s stuff, but I thought I’d pass on this link:

    It’s a feature on the defense being run by Michigan State, and its success against the spread options it has faced. Saturday is MSU vs. Oregon, so the article describes the way MSU deals with the multiple ways the spread threatens. The commitment to simplicity and versatility within the D sounds a lot like how Kelly describes his offense. Spoiler alert, they run a pure 4-3, and need good safeties to make it work!

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      Good read.

      Defenses will no doubt adapt to Kelly and I’m excited to see how.

      • peteike

        Will be interested to see how Harbaugh/niners deal

      • Kev_H

        I think it ultimately evolves into a more pure, flowing game where on-the-field decisions and execution by players is the key. To me, this is a good sign. All that huddling, coach game day micromanagement, situational subbing, time outing etc. are detrimental to the sport (they are detrimental to basketball and baseball too).

        • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

          Damn I love football.

        • JofreyRice

          I think you’re right, but I see both sides. I think the whole thing speeds up a bit more and becomes based more on the athletic talents and on-field awareness of the players, which is fun to watch, but the down side is that it takes an element of the “chess match” out of it. Watching Rex Ryan bring overload blitzes with disguised coverage behind them to flummox Tom Brady, or remembering how our own Jim Johnson brought both cornerbacks at once against top QBs was really appreciating the strategic nature of expectation and preparation of offensive coaches versus the creativity and risk management of defensive minds. I think there is something to be said for that as well, even if it ends up being anachronistic in terms of today’s game.

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            Well said.

          • Kev_H

            I think you can still do the chess match. It just takes better coaching (during practice and prep, where coaching should occur in my opinion) and smarter players.

          • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

            This is what I’ve been thinking. Maybe the sport becomes more soccer or basketball-esque. Each of the eleven, or say three personnel groupings (Dline, LBs, and secondary) have a set of rules. The rules are adaptable to situations. Perhaps playcalling becomes anachronistic.

            If I just Bill Walsh’d something you all better remember where you read it first.

      • Byter

        Definitely a good read. Seems like Sproles is the man to break that kind of D. Maybe Chip is still ahead of the curve.

    • thanks JR. Chris is great.
      I’m looking forward to seeing that game next weekend.

    • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

      That was an amazing read. Thanks for posting.

      Can’t promise I’ll know the answer if you ask me “what’s the US doing about ISIS, Russia, or Ebola”; but I’ll damn sure know if someone asks me “how would Michigan St. defend our corner flat combo?”

  • mtn_green

    Good article. Stoutland and the system make these OL and the RB look really good. Health is a really big concern. No way to really factor that in.

  • Mr. Wu

    Kurt Coleman signs with chiefs lmao
    Andy should bring Marsh and henery in too

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      “Kurt is a real fastball.. guy will work his tail off for us. I’ve got to do a good job of taking that work ethic and coaching it up. Time’s yours..”

      • Piatz1019

        I just had an involuntary shiver down my spine

    • NickS, Combine Warrior

      They’re on his radar, don’t you worry.

  • Kev_H

    Is there a precedent for key players sitting out more than the 4 games they are suspended for? It would seem like an NFL team could handle a suspension, especially one that was known so early in the offseason. If Johnson missed extra time, I’d be shocked and disappointed in the coaching staff.

  • William Marchionni

    What really upsets me is how these knuckle head football players violate rules which they are told about consistently I me am come on these are guys with so called college degrees. Any player should be told do not take anything even an aspirin without first talking with the team doctors. This kid was going to have a Pro Bowl year in my opinion. I just don’t get it