Season Predictions: The Offensive Line Without Lane
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
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.