When your offensive line allows 14 quarterback hits, eight sacks, ten tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, two interceptions, three fumbles and three passes knocked down in a 27-17 season-opening loss to a division rival, it should be a surprise to no one if the first question to the head coach as he prepares his team for week two is about the o-line.
That is pretty much what Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has had to do when meeting with reporters via video conference after his Eagles lost to the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field last Sunday.
Because of injuries, was forced to start 38-year-old Jason Peters at left tackle, rookie Jack Driscoll, a fourth round pick at right tackle and second-year interior lineman Nate Herbig at right guard. The 6-foot-4, 334-pounder, who was signed last year as a rookie free agent, was making his NFL first start.
This unit faced what could end up being the best defensive front in the league this year with a make-shift lineup that struggled all afternoon.
This week it does not get any better as the Birds will face Los Angeles Rams All Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who mangled the Dallas Cowboys vaunted offensive line during the Rams 20-17 season-opener.
With Eagles All Pro right tackle Lane Johnson expected back this week, Pederson was asked who would start at right guard.
“We are still obviously planning on going forward with Nate Herbig,” Pederson said. “He had a great week of practice. This is two weeks back-to-back now that he's gotten the bulk of the work, so he'll go in as our starter at right guard.”
Pederson was asked about the issues the offensive line had on Sunday and with Donald as the next opponent and with the way the Rams seem to move him all around, how important will the communication and the assignments be with his lineman on Sunday.
“Obviously Aaron Donald is a great player, tremendous player,” Pederson said. “There are not many offensive lines out there that really kind of slow this guy down. I mean, he just goes from snap to whistle. He's a hundred miles an hour and that's tough. For us, it's about understanding where he lines up and he does move -- it's a different scheme. It's not the same Wade Phillips scheme. It's a different scheme so they move him around the D-Line just a little bit more, so it's imperative that we understand where he's at. Communication is of the utmost, obviously, and it starts with (Jason) Kelce and echos along the offensive line. So, we just have to be aware of where he's at.”
Herbig was asked how much did being here last year and this summer help him get ready for his first NFL start and now his second starting assignment.
“It definitely helped me a lot,” Herbig said. “Just being in the room with guys like (Jason) Kelce, JP (Jason Peters), Isaac (Seumalo), (Brandon) Brooks and Lane (Johnson), all those guys and seeing how seriously that take it with coach Stout (OL coach Jeff Stoutland) drilling the playbook into me. You have to learn it, that’s how the room goes, such a high standard.”
BALDY TALKS ABOUT THE NEW LINEMEN AND DEALING WITH DONALD
Former Eagles offensive lineman and NFL Network on-air talent Brian Baldinger talked about how he thought the Eagles new blockers fared their first game.
“I thought Jack Driscoll’s play was really good,” said Baldinger who’s “Baldy’s Breakdowns” have become a favorite with NFL fans nationally. “Nate Herbig was fine. Individually they were fine up front even though Carson Wentz got hit 14 times. There are a lot of things you’d like to get ironed out during preseason games that they didn’t get ironed out in practice.”
During a segment on Footballstories Facebook Live, Baldy also talked about Donald.
“You have to game plan every play,” Baldinger said. “You can’t slide away from Aaron Donald. You have to know where he’s at. You have to adjust your protection so you have two guys on him every play. And he’s still going to split double teams, blow up one. You have to try and run away from him. You can’t run to him. You can’t down block him because he beats a down block. Nobody can beat him on a down block.”
BALDY STILL LIKES EAGLES CHANCES
“They’ve played against him before,” Baldinger said. “And the Eagles have had good game plan against him.”
The Eagles have won seven of the last meetings against the Rams including in 2017 and 2018 when Nick Foles came in for Wentz to save the day.
The Birds (0-1) will also have the services of running back Miles Sanders and defensive end Derek Barnett,
Those two were sorely missed in the loss to Washington.
Herbig was asked what he thought about going from being a rookie free agent who was deactivated most of last season to facing Donald in a crucial early season game.
“Since I was a little kid I always dreamed of playing in the NFL,” He said. “And just getting this opportunity is, is a blessing to me and all I can do is just going and do my job and do it the best that I can, and try to help the team win and obviously, Aaron Donald, you know, there's a lot of respect for him. He's the best, one of the best out there. He's an elite player so I'm just going be locked in and try and do my job and help the team win.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii