For Allen Barbre, it's a left vs. right thing. Moving from left guard to right tackle is about, in essence, doing everything backward. Barbre just hopes that doing it backward enough will make the Eagles' offensive line go forward on Monday night against the Green Bay Packers.
For the third time this season, the Eagles are preparing for changes along the offensive line. They lost right tackle Lane Johnson after the line enjoyed four games of continuity when Johnson began serving his 10-game suspension following the loss in Detroit. Stefen Wisniewski stepped in for Barbre for two starts at left guard. And now, with right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in a "week-to-week" situation, according to head coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles have Barbre prepared to move from left guard to right tackle, with Wisniewski returning to the starting group at left guard.
"It's a lot of change. Imagine you've done everything your whole life left handed and now you have to change everything and do it with your right hand," Barbre said. "You kind of have to re-learn everything and then just get comfortable with it. And then when you go from guard to tackle, you change the kind of defensive player you're going against. You have to be a little more athletic with your feet out there. The pass rushers are faster. It's an adjustment. I like left guard and that's what I prefer, but whatever is best for the team is what I'm going to do."
Vaitai was making substantial progress in his rookie season until he was felled last week in Seattle when a pile of bodies spun his way and crashed into his left knee. Vaitai has a sprained medial collateral ligament and is rehabbing with the team's athletic training staff. There are still a few days before Monday night, but the feeling is that Vaitai, who didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday, is a long shot at this point to play.
If that's the case, Barbre gets the call. He has eight career starts at right tackle, so the Eagles believe he will make the transition a smooth one on Monday night and, if needed, beyond.
"It's going to be fine," said Barbre, who had a couple of weeks of practice reps at right tackle in the summer. "I've worked with Brandon (Brooks, right guard) and we're on the same page. I've played over there before. I know how it works. It is just going to take some time to get comfortable. I'll be fine by Monday."
How Will It Play Out At WR?
Paul Turner was the focus for the media on Wednesday in the locker room as he is now on the 53-man roster and ready for duty, but what kind of role will he play? Pederson said he sees Turner as a slot receiver, an area capably manned by Ronald Darby. Certainly, Matthews can play more as an outside receiver if the Eagles want to take that route. And there is no word on what kind of role change might be coming for the struggling Nelson Agholor, who continues to work hard and keep his head up with good performances in practice.
The real question is whether the Eagles can use five active receivers against Green Bay. With two running backs, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, questionable, the Eagles could go into the game pretty light there, although Sproles was a full participant in Thursday's practice, a good sign for his availability on Monday.
"Whoever is out there has to do his job," Matthews said. "That's what it comes down to. Just go out there and do your job and know that the guy next to you is going to do his. We all have to focus and play our best football. We've got six games left in the regular season and we need to have the mindset that we need to win them all. That's how I'm approaching it."
Aaron Rodgers Still Garners Mad Respect
The Packers have all kinds of injury problems and they've lost four straight games to fall to 4-6, but they've got quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has thrown 25 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions in another superstar season.
"He moves around back there and he's got that quick release," defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. "He's one of the best. He knows what's coming, so you can't fool him. You just have to keep working and make sure that if you get a shot on him, you need to finish."
Said safety Rodney McLeod: "Great quarterback and he's on the same page with his receivers. He gets it out fast and he's accurate. Aaron is a great challenge for every defense. He keeps plays alive with his legs and his receivers know where the ball is going to be. As long as they have Aaron Rodgers, they know they can score on every possession."
And … An Injury Update
The Eagles practiced on Thanksgiving, in the morning, and then had the afternoon off. Defensive end Connor Barwin (knee), Mathews (knee), Vaitai (knee) and defensive end Steven Means (illness) did not practice. Safety Terrence Brooks (hamstring), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (concussion) and Sproles were full participants.