PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s never easy playing in your first career National Football League game, let alone replacing the suspended Lane Johnson at starting right-tackle for a 3-1 football team on the road against the Washington Redskins’ top pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan.
That was the task for Eagles fifth-round offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai, better known as Big V. And as expected, it didn’t go well, especially to start the game.
Pederson says he put three tight ends on Big V’s side on the first play of the game. The result? A Ryan Kerrigan sack, a Brent Celek holding penalty that was of course declined, and a ripped jersey for Carson Wentz. The second time Wentz dropped back for a pass after three straight runs? Another Kerrigan sack. Celek finished the game with just 13 snaps played.
Listen: Doug Pederson on the 94WIP Morning Show
“I went through my call sheet this morning and I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything as a play caller to help Big V and I think Big V is going to be a great player,” Pederson said Monday on the 94WIP Morning Show. “The first play of the game we had three tight ends over on his side. We ran the ball on second down, third down we ran the football. Fourth play we ran the football. We had a jet protection that we were sliding his direction. We had a chip protection on the next play. We ran a movement where Carson [Wentz] was out of the pocket. Another run, another chip to his side, another run, another run.
“So, the thing is, I went into this game knowing we would have to help Big V. First game as a rookie against one of the best pass rushers in the National Football League in my opinion. When he gets going, it’s hard to stop [Ryan] Kerrigan. He’s a good football player, I played against him too many times. So, I went in and I did — I helped him. I helped him as often as I could. There were going to be times where he was going to have to be an professional right tackle and play the game. And I thought after we got through a couple of series — it was rough to start. I’ll admit, it was rough to start. But once we got through a couple of series, he settled, he battled, and he fought through it. To his credit, in the National Football League to play right tackle, I thought he did a good job. Does he have a lot to learn and a lot to fix? Sure, we all do. But just looking at my call sheet here, I felt like that I gave him enough help to start this football game.”
Things did get a bit better for Big V, as Kerrigan finished with only those two sacks in the opening series. However, Washington sacked Wentz five times throughout the game, and the pressure never let up. Wentz completed just 11 of 22 passes and the Eagles offense was never able to get into a rhythm.
Pederson says he never thought about replacing Big V during the game.
“I don’t want to destroy the kid’s mental capacity,” Pederson said of Big V. “I think there’s a fine line there. We made the right decision, I made the right decision. He’ll be better this week. We’re going to continue to help all of our guys up front and this is a great game for him to learn from.”
The Eagles have lost two games and their starting right-tackle in just two weeks, falling to 3-2 and third place in the NFC East. Things won’t get easier for the Birds, who host Sam Bradford and the undefeated Minnesota Vikings on Sunday before traveling to Dallas and then New York for back-to-back divisional road games.