Maybe someday this 2020 revolving door along the Eagles' offensive line will have a silver lining. Maybe all of the experience that the young players are receiving now is going to pay dividends in the future. For now, though, for a team trying to win a football game and get back atop the NFC East and turn a struggling season in the right direction, it's one body blow after an uppercut followed by a haymaker.
The latest: Right tackle Lane Johnson said on Friday that he's going to miss the remainder of this season due to a lingering ankle injury – the origins of which happened two seasons ago when Johnson was injured in the game against Jacksonville in London and then when he further injured the ankle against the Giants late last year.
"Those two injuries kind of snowballed into this," said Johnson, who said he expects to have another surgery, although one is not yet scheduled.
So, Johnson's season is done after seven games and just 58 percent of the team's offensive snap counts through 10 contests.
"It's been difficult trying to play at a high level, really just the anxiety of the whole process, but it's part of the game," Johnson said. "It's something I knew that I would struggle with throughout the year. I really didn't improve much and so, the outlook is my season is done. Probably be maybe a four-month recovery, five-month recovery. But essentially from all the high-ankle sprains and damage I've had done to my ankle, really kind of the repair of the deltoid ligament, it's like the inside of my ligament has collapsed, so a lot of my power and my push-off that I normally have isn't there, so that's really where I'm at.
"Early in the year, I had some difficulty with kind of like a stress fracture was forming from the tightrope surgery (in Training Camp) and so that was kind of ongoing. And then just more of the same. Been rolled up on a few times and at times I thought I was making progress and ended getting rolled up a few times and ended up getting set back to where I am now."
Although there is nothing official from Head Coach Doug Pederson, Johnson said on Friday that Jason Peters would play right guard and Matt Pryor would move to right tackle for Monday night's game against Seattle.
"I think with Pryor there, those are two big people so far as covering ground and being able to move efficiently," Johnson said. "I think they'll be working good together."
If that's the case, Jordan Mailata would be the leading candidate to start at left tackle, where he's started four games this season.
A team that always seems to have answers up front – dating back to the Andy Reid days – the Eagles felt they had the offensive line in check emerging from the 2020 NFL Draft during which they used picks on guard/tackle Jack Driscoll and tackle Prince Tega Wanogho. But then Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the spring as he was running at the NovaCare Complex in his rehab from a shoulder injury, setting off a chain reaction from which the team has not recovered.
Peters was signed to replace Brooks at right guard, even though he had never played the position in an NFL game. When second-year man Andre Dillard, the projected starter at left tackle, suffered a season-ending biceps injury in Training Camp, Peters slid to left tackle prior to the opening-week game at Washington. Since then, the Eagles have had injuries up and down the offensive line. Only center Jason Kelce – who will start his 100th consecutive game on Monday night – has been out there every week, and he finished Sunday's game in Cleveland wearing a brace on his injured left elbow.
Left guard Isaac Seumalo missed seven games with a knee injury. Johnson has been in and out of the lineup. Peters has played in six games and 58 percent of the snaps this season. Nate Herbig started the season at right guard and then moved to left guard, starting the opening eight games. He hasn't played since. Driscoll has been able to help in a pinch. Sua Opeta has made a couple of starts at guard. Pryor has started six games.
Every week, though, for the most part, it's been a revolving door of "Who is playing where along the offensive line?"
"It's been an awkward year," Johnson said. "We lined up in the beginning of the year and had what you think is going to be that for the rest of the year. Isaac ends up tearing his MCL in Week 2. Having in and out with different players, it's just … one thing why Coach (Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Jeff) Stoutland takes things so seriously with how we do things around here with practicing and meetings is that he tries to prepare these young guys to be starters so nobody is an exception, nobody is different. Whenever times like these do happen … these guys can come in and get the job done. With the young players, it all comes down to experience."
As for Johnson, the best right tackle in the NFL when he's healthy and on the field, 2020 is behind him. He's got no choice but to look ahead with optimism.
"It's just more inability to stay healthy that's more frustrating," he said. "You get paid a contract to play like one of the best tackles in the league and you go out there and you can't finish games and you're not out there, so it is what it is. People deal with injuries. It's just a matter of recovering from this and coming back fully healthy, play a season, don't worry about it, and get back to functioning normally. That's the goal. It's part of the game. People deal with injuries all of the time.
"Moving forward, I just want to put this behind me."