PHILADELPHIA (AP) When the Philadelphia Eagles line up to play the Carolina Panthers on Monday night, they will have their sixth different offensive line combination.
It’s only the ninth game of the season.
This week, left guard Evan Mathis comes back from injured reserve/designated to return with a knee injury just as right guard Todd Herremans goes on IR with elbow and ankle injuries.
Article continues below ...
”It’s kind of crazy,” said center Jason Kelce, who returned last week after sports hernia surgery kept him out for four games. ”But it says a lot about the team how we have been able to keep it together.”
Despite using five combinations in their first eight games, the Eagles are 6-2 and lead the NFC East.
”Two things can happen,” Mathis said. ”You can get injuries and the guys that go in aren’t ready to play, or you can have guys who are prepared. Our guys were prepared and that comes from how it is here.
”In this offense, the 1s, the 2s, the 3s all get opportunities in camp. They all get reps. They all get coached equally. That’s huge for a guy coming in as a rookie free agent, because he’s going to get a fair opportunity to show what he can do. It’s not like that everywhere.”
Through the first half of the season, 2013 All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters is the only lineman to start all eight games, a far cry from last year. The Eagles were fortunate enough to have all five linemen start all 16 regular-season games and the playoff game against New Orleans.
”And what happened the year before?” asked Mathis, also a 2013 All-Pro.
In 2012, the line was devastated with injuries that saw Peters (Achilles tendon), Kelce (knee) and Herremans (foot) go down for the season. That helped turn a promising season into a 4-12 fiasco that led to head coach Andy Reid’s firing.
This year, despite using three left guards, two centers, soon to be three right guards and four right tackles, the Eagles are winning.
”It has been tricky,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. ”Fortunately, the guys behind the scenes were able to get a lot of reps and stepped up when asked. Now, as we get guys back, it makes it a little easier for everyone.”
Kelce returned last week, played well according to the coaches, felt fine and is ready to continue. Mathis comes back this week after being out since the opener.
And second-year man Matt Tobin, who started the past five games at left guard, moves to right guard.
Sunday’s offensive line figures to look like this from left to right: Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Tobin and Lane Johnson.
”He’s played well,” Shurmur said of Tobin, the one ”backup” still in the lineup. ”He’ll be all right (on the right side). The only difference is Jason is going to be on this side of him instead of on that side of him. He’s learned to play both sides.”
Tobin says it’s not quite that easy.
”I have to get comfortable over there,” he said. ”I’ve been used to playing the left side, so it’s kind of different. I played it at Iowa, and they sprinkled some right side in there for me, but I’ve primarily been on the left.
”Last week I thought I played my best game, hopefully I can pick up where I left off on the other side.”
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL