As the Eagles began the individual portion of Thursday's practice, Halapoulivaati Vaitai was at left tackle next to Stefen Wisniewski. Lane Johnson remained at right tackle.
It might seem to go against some conventional wisdom, but the Eagles are planning for Big V to take over for Jason Peters as the protector of Carson Wentz's blindside instead of sliding Johnson over.
On Sunday, the line will look like this (from left to right): Vaitai, Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Johnson.
Either way, losing Peters (MCL, ACL) for the season is huge. It'll be tough to overcome. But in the past, the team has toyed with the idea of moving Johnson to left tackle in a situation just like this. But now they're not.
There are a few reasons why this is the right move:
1. Doesn't weaken two spots
While Peters had been playing at an All-Pro level at left tackle through seven games this season, Johnson was nearly as good on the right side.
"I think I'm better on the right for now," Johnson said on Wednesday. "I haven't had any reps over there."
The thing about moving Johnson over and then replacing him with Vaitai is that it would weaken two spots instead of just one on the line. Johnson wouldn't be as good as Peters at left tackle and Vaitai clearly wouldn't be as good as Johnson on the right.
It would make plenty of sense to get their best offensive tackle covering Wentz's blindside, but then the Eagles would probably limit Johnson in some ways by asking him to play out of position.
2. Big V looked OK
A lot of folks probably still think about that disaster Vaitai had against Washington last season when Ryan Kerrigan beat him up and down the field. Last year's fifth-round pick doesn't look like that guy anymore. Is he an All-Pro? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But at least Vatai looks like he belongs in the NFL.
If you take the time to go back and look at his game against Washington on Monday after Peters' injury, Vaitai actually played pretty well (see story). Sure, he gave up a couple plays, but he kept Wentz clean and even had one big play in the run game.
Big V isn't going to be Peters, but there's a chance he might look like a serviceable player for the last nine games of the season.
3. Great players over RT
Johnson has already faced some great pass-rushers this season but there are more to come. DeMarcus Lawrence from the Cowboys, Von Miller from the Broncos and Khalil Mack from the Raiders are three of the best pass-rushers in football. And guess where they like to line up? Yup. On the left side of the defensive line, across from the right tackle.
Now, you're saying, 'Why wouldn't those guys move across the line and face Vaitai instead?' Fair point. Washington actually tried that on Monday. Two plays after Peters went down, Kerrigan lined up over Vaitai, who held his own. And why make life easier on those top pass-rushers? If they want to seek out a favorable matchup, let them move, don't bring that favorable matchup to them.