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Injuries Again Rattle Offensive Line


There were six quarterback sacks. The running game managed only 68 yards on 25 attempts. In a 45-14 loss to Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, the Eagles' offense averaged just 3.9 yards per play, and in the second quarter they were actually in negative territory in yards gained, with -9.

Why the problems? There were many, as there have been all season, and the offensive line was one of them once again.

Left tackle Jason Peters left the game for good 10 snaps into the first quarter when he suffered a sprained ankle. Peters said after the game that he hoped he would be able to return, but he just couldn't get the right balance and power to do so.

As a result, the Eagles shifted the line, moving right tackle Lane Johnson to left tackle and inserting Dennis Kelly at right tackle. It's a lineup the Eagles used with great effectiveness in their win over Dallas four games ago, but one that struggled in a loss to visiting Miami a week later.

"We had a lot of problems up front," said Johnson, who had his hands full working against defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who registered 3.5 of those six sacks. "It was tough out there. We got it handed to us. I don't feel good at all about the way I played or the way we played."

Continuity up front has been a goal for this team since the 2013 season, head coach Chip Kelly's first, when the team set a franchise record for points scored and led the league in rushing and in explosive plays (defined as plays that gain 20 or more yards). That season, the starting five played together for 98 percent of the snaps and the offense had great success.

Injuries have since eaten away at the continuity. And this year the starting five has been on the field for only a handful of games start to finish as right guard Andrew Gardner suffered a season-ending foot injury against the New York Jets and Peters has been in and out of most of the games with a quad injury, a back injury and now the sprained ankle.

That in-and-out shuffling has had a toll.

"There are no excuses," center Jason Kelce said. "Injuries are part of the deal in the NFL. We're no different than any other team. We just have to handle it better and play with more consistency."

Peters is the X-factor down the stretch. He needs to stay healthy and anchor the left side of the line.

"We'll see how it feels," he said after Thursday's loss. "We have a few extra days to heal. I hope I can get back out there and help this team win."

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