Herremans has moved from left guard to right tackle, which is probably his most natural position. Herremans played left tackle as a rookie, and played well, until suffering a broken ankle. But with Tra Thomas manning left tackle and Jon Runyan at right tackle, the Eagles moved Herremans to left guard in 2005 and he responded with six strong seasons there.
It was not an easy transition. Herremans worked hard to perfect his stance, to get his body lower, to prepare for the quick, inside movements. Now, he goes back to the edge and has to adjust all over again. It shouldn't be too difficult. Andy Reid has given Herremans practice reps over the years at right tackle and it won't take too long to again become comfortable with the right-handed stance and the space in which he is now going to operate.
Is the move for the long term? That depends upon performance, not only from Herremans but from the new left guard, Evan Mathis. The countdown is on for the opener. There are only so many practice days remaining. Every rep is precious. Will Reid play his starting offensive line for a quarter or so in the preseason finale against the Jets, just to see how it fares in live game action?
The looming question is what kind of shape the line is going to be in when the Eagles go to St. Louis for the September 11 season opener in a loud, raucous environment against a defense that likes to blitz, likes to give different looks and is going to be aggressive on every snap of the football.
Howard Mudd knew coming into the preseason that he had some work to do with his offensive. The Eagles used three draft picks on offensive linemen, brought in a couple of veterans (Mathis and Ryan Harris) in free agency and held an open competition. "The five best linemen will play," Mudd said upon his hiring.
It's taken some time to find those five best players. The Eagles have given a slew of players the chance to claim the right tackle job – King Dunlap, Fenuki Tupou, Harris, Mathis and Austin Howard took reps there in training camp – and none have done so. Incumbent Winston Justice remains sidelined while recovering from knee surgery, so Herremans steps into the void.
Mudd is faced with a great challenge, and I know he enjoys these kinds of jobs. Only left tackle Jason Peters is where he was last season in the Eagles' offensive line picture, so Mudd has two weeks to prepare a line that features a pair of rookies (Jason Kelce at center and Danny Watkins at right guard), a newcomer (Mathis) and a transplanted veteran (Herremans) into a cohesive unit capable of protecting quarterback Michael Vick.
Herremans at right tackle is the right move. He will be fine there, and perhaps his veteran leadership will aid Watkins in his development. Mathis is a tough guy who stepped up in the preseason games and Mudd has a level of comfort with the NFL veteran. Kelce is on track to be a terrific player as he goes through the growing pains right now. That's the word from those who study the position and who understand the good things they see from the athletic, tough and intelligent sixth-round draft pick. Watkins is in the same situation: He is learning every day at a new position and his ceiling is high. The Eagles drafted him first in April for a reason.
There is definitely the sense that the long-term growth is exciting. The short-term prospects are maybe nerve-rattling for fans who think the Eagles can make all of these changes and go seamlessly into a season, but the coaches and players don't feel that way. The game plans will play to the team's strengths and Mudd will make sure to protect Vick, the franchise quarterback.
This is where coaching comes into play in a big way. The Eagles made the decision to invest heavily in the coaching staff after that playoff loss to Green Bay that ended the 2010 season. Mudd was a central figure, recruited back to the NFL by Reid. Mudd is one of the best line coaches ever. He will put a great plan in place as the Eagles show tremendous faith in his abilities to do just that, much the way they are trusting that Herremans, a self-made (along with help from former line coach Juan Castillo) left guard with Pro Bowl ability, can transition to the right tackle spot and play well right away.
NEWS, NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- Just wondering … the Giants-Jets game moved to Monday night because of Hurricane Irene, so will the NFL move the Eagles-Jets preseason finale to Friday to give the Jets another day of rest?
- That the Eagles were able to get Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith back on the practice field and on track to be ready for the opener is a credit to the coordinated programs of head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin. They worked together to get both players on programs geared individually for them. Maclin seems a touch ahead of Smith, who estimated on Saturday that he probably 3-4 weeks away from being "100 percent" but both players are going to be on the 53-man roster and eligible for the Rams. It's still too early to say how much Smith will be able to play in that game.
- How many receivers do the Eagles keep? With DeSean Jackson, Maclin, Smith, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, do the Eagles just go with five? Or do they go with six, considering that Chad Hall, Sinorice Moss and Johnnie Lee Higgins are NFL-tested and worthy receivers? Can the Eagles keep three tight ends and six receivers? The cut to 80 players by Tuesday won't be too newsworthy, but the reduction to 53 players will be as intriguing as any I can remember around here.
- I'm interested to see which linebackers make it here. Brian Rolle has stepped up in a coverage roll. Keenan Clayton closes in the open field so well. Rashad Jeanty is a stout player who excels on special teams and Akeem Jordan plays every position and is a good player on special teams. Are those the four backup linebackers here, with Greg Lloyd, Jr. going to Injured Reserve?