NEW ORLEANS – An offensive line already challenged by injury took another hit early in Monday night's game when right tackle Todd Herremans went down with an ankle/foot injury and did not return. He was taken for X rays during the game, will have an MRI on Tuesday and left New Orleans on crutches and wearing a boot on his right foot.
It was another huge blow to an offensive line that was beaten badly by the Saints, who racked up seven sacks and beat the stuffing out of quarterback Michael Vick.
"It was frustrating, it was tough and we didn't play well enough," said left guard Evan Mathis. "I have to look at the fiilm to tell you exactly what happened, but it wasn't good enough for us to win."
Demetress Bell replaced Herremans at right tackle, and the offense was just not the same. The running game clicked – the Eagles rang up 221 yards on the ground and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt – but the Saints were able to blitz Vick effectively and slow a passing game that came out firing in the first quarter and, most important, shut down the Eagles in the red zone.
With Herremans out, the Eagles played a line that nobody ever expected to be on the field together. King Dunlap played left tackle, Mathis was the left guard, Dallas Reynolds played center, Dennis Kelly was the right guard and Bell manned the right tackle position. Only Mathis was penciled in as a starter when the Eagles imagined their offensive line way back in the spring.
"It was tough to see Todd go down, the leader of the line and one of the leaders of the team. It's tough getting continuity going when you have someone next to you who is new every week or something.
"They brought a lot of blitz, a lot of pressure. They had a good game plan. There were times when we picked it up and times when we didn't."
All of those heady thoughts about having one of the best lines in the league started unraveling when left tackle Jason Peters suffered a torn Achilles tendon injury and twice required surgery. Bell was expected to replace him, but was unable to hold onto the starting job. Center Jason Kelce suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in Week 2 against Baltimore, right guard Danny Watkins has missed two games with a sprained ankle and now Herremans is sidelined.
What are the options moving forward? Watkins is hopeful to play against Dallas on Sunday, but for the most part the Eagles have to hope that what they have improves from week to week. Herremans could have a long road back to the playing field. Line coach Howard Mudd has one of the most challenging tasks of his storied career.
"It's hard to see Michael get hit so much. We have to have trust in the scheme and in the technique and get better," said Kelly.
Said Bell: "We know we have to be better. There were times when we moved the ball, but it wasn't enough. It's just a tough situation right now that we have to work hard at and overcome."