By Kevin McGuire
In football, it doesn’t matter if you have a franchise quarterback, a talented running game and receivers if you don’t have an offensive line. The Philadelphia Eagles have no offensive line following the suspension of Lane Johnson. Can they manage to gel on the line this week as they take on the Minnesota Vikings? If not, it could be a long afternoon for the Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
Can The Eagles Fix The Offensive Line?
With Lane Johnson now serving his 10-game suspension for using a banned substance, the Eagles looked like a mess on the offensive line on Sunday in a loss against Washington. The problem is, there may not be a whole lot that can be done at this point to fix it, other than hope players on the roster now grow up in a hurry. Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai sure looked like a rookie making his NFL debut against Washington, and it looks as though the Eagles are committed to keeping him at the same spot this weekend against one of the best defenses in the NFL (actually, it is the best).
“Started out just trying to get his legs. Had a couple missed assignments early and felt like he settled into the game as the game wore on,” Pederson said this week about Vaitai, according to PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “We used more help on his side as the game wore on as well, really on both edges. He’s a warrior, he’s a battler. He stepped up and did a good job. He’ll learn from it and be ready for next week.”
This means the Eagles will keep former Penn State offensive lineman (and the son of a Hall of Fame lineman) Stefen Wisniewski on the sideline ,and only call on him in the event they need to make a change. How short will the leash be? It may be longer than some Eagles fans will be willing to accept. But if Wisniewski can’t jump in and get to work now, this may be more of an indication of how little faith head coach Doug Pederson has in Wisniewski to improve the line, at least for right now. Wisniewski has been taking snaps this week at center while Jason Kelce has been dealing with plantar fasciitis.
Will Jordan Matthews play?
Putting aside the offensive line woes, the Eagles could also be slowed in the receiving game if Jordan Matthews is not up to speed. Matthews was limited in practice on Wednesday after being diagnosed with knee tendinitis. The Eagles will pay close attention to this injury as the week continues. For now, his status for Sunday is unknown. The good news is there’s time to evaluate just how significant this may be.
Matthews is the team’s leading receiver with 344 yards and two touchdowns. The entire receiving corp has had a disappointing start to the season, so the possible loss for any amount of time by a team’s top receiver would figure to hurt an offense—especially one with a shaky offensive line and a quarterback that has come up with a handful of rookie mistakes in the past two weeks.