There's no underselling how significant of a loss Jason Peters may be for the Eagles.
Early in the third quarter, Redskins defensive lineman Ziggy Hood fell into Peters' leg causing the tackle to collapse. Silence fell over the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field as teammates and medical staffers hovered around Peters as he was carted off of the field. As the left tackle raised his fist into the air, the crowd broke out into chants of "Jason Peters!"
"Any time you lose an anchor like that, one of the best of all time, it just means so much to this team," said right tackle Lane Johnson. "Especially to all the guys, just really a pillar in our building, so we'll see what's going on with his injury but hope for the best."
Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who should be a surefire future Hall of Fame inductee, is highly respected by his teammates. His on-field performance and hard work warrants respect by not only the players in his locker room but the admiration of others around the league. Even Redskins left tackle and five-time Pro Bowl choice Trent Williams came off the Washington bench to check on Peters as he was carted off.
"It's tough because that's the guy. He's the one everybody respects," said defensive tackle Brandon Graham. "He works hard every day, doesn't say much, but you see him putting in that work each and every day."
It's uncertain how much time Peters could miss but his absence means second-year tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai steps into a larger role. Vaitai stepped in and played well when Johnson was sidelined last week against the Panthers.
When Peters went down Monday night, Vaitai filled the void at left tackle and the offense didn't appear to be off by much. The team marched down the field and scored compliments of Wentz and rookie running back Corey Clement to give the Eagles a two-touchdown lead as they broke the game open.
"It was very important to have that confidence boost for the rest of the game," Vaitai responded when asked about the possession. "I was like, 'I hope it's not too serious when I was running out because I thought they were going to keep going.' But when I saw JP, JP just tells me to just calm down, take two sets, and that's it."
Vaitai finds himself in an almost identical position to the one he encountered last season. When Johnson was serving a 10-game suspension, Vaitai slid in and started six games at right tackle. This time, Vaitai's a year older and may have to adjust to playing left tackle. The Eagles could also move Johnson to left tackle and put Vaitai at right tackle.
"Being here a year and a half now I need more experience, especially at left tackle," Vaitai said. "I had the right tackle down a little bit and now I'm starting to switch and that kind of alters your mechanics, so I've got to keep working from there."
How the Eagles choose to move forward without Peters remains to be seen. After the win, Johnson stated he's not opposed to moving to left tackle but there's also concern about the talented group of pass rushers on the right side in the upcoming weeks. Whatever the case may be, Johnson and Vaitai factor as key components in softening the blow. As for supplanting what Peters brought to the locker room, the task is an unfair one.
"He means a ton to that football team and to that locker room in there. He's a tremendous leader," said head coach Doug Pederson. "We'll just have to see (Tuesday) where he's at. You just see the respect of the guys. You see the respect of the fans with a guy like that, an All-Pro left tackle who has been in this business a long time and the toughness that he plays with every single week. He plays nicked up every single week, and there's no complaining out of him. You just see the respect from the team, the coaches, and the fans. Even the Redskins tonight, some of the players were wishing him well at that time."
The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Washington Redskins 34-24 on Monday Night Football.