Eagles

Eagles Film Study: Halapoulivaati Vaitai holds his own after Jason Peters' injury

The Eagles are going to miss Jason Peters. There's just no getting around it. 

Peters isn't just one of the best left tackles to ever play the game, he's also been a true leader for the Eagles' offense for the last several years. Going on without him is going to sting. 

But the Eagles have overcome injuries before this and it's just the latest on a long list. It's a big hole to fill, but they have a Big V to fill it. Second-year offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai came into Monday's game in the third quarter and played pretty well after Peters went down. 

"He played solid," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "That's a tough thing to do, to walk in, not only play that position but filling in those shoes for Jason Peters. But he did a good job." 

On Wednesday, Lane Johnson was unsure which sides their tackles will play with Peters gone. It seems possible that they'll leave him on the right side and make a 1-for-1 swap on the left side. Peters out, Vaitai in. That sounds scary. 

But Monday, Vaitai played 30 snaps (29 at left tackle) and didn't give up a sack, QB hit or QB hurry in the game. 

He's not Peters, but Vaitai actually played pretty well. Here's a closer look at his game: 

This is just the second play after Peters went down. Carson Wentz is under center with LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. You'll notice on the right side of the screen, Washington has put Ryan Kerrigan on Vaitai. Kerrigan normally rushes from the left side of the defensive line but perhaps the 'Skins thought there would be a more favorable matchup against Vaitai. 


The Eagles run a play-action naked bootleg on this down, which obviously helps Vaitai, but he has Kerrigan locked down on this play. Wentz rolls right and delivers a pass to Trey Burton for seven yards. 

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On the next play, Vaitai is going to deal with a much different player than Kerrigan or linebacker Junior Galette, who he also saw plenty of Monday. This time, he's going to go 1-on-1 against Terrell McClain, who is 6-foot-2, 302 pounds. And Vaitai is about to show off his strength. 

Vaitai more than holds up against the bull rush from McClain, who should be able to use his leverage against the 6-6 Vaitai. But Vaitai gets locked on him and gives Wentz a great pocket to throw from. This pass is a deep incompletion to Marcus Johnson, but Big V did his job. Stefen Wisniewski was there to help Vaitai if he needed it, but Vaitai didn't. 

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A couple plays later, Vaitai is lined up against Galette, who is 6-2/254 but much quicker. On this play, Galette tries to use a simple bull rush against Vaitai. After it didn't work for McClain, it's not going to work for Galette. 


No help needed for Vaitai. He and the rest of the O-line give Wentz a very clean pocket to hit Zach Ertz for a 21-yard gain, the biggest of the touchdown drive. Vaitai slips at the end of this play, but he already gave Wentz plenty of time to deliver the ball. 

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This was the worst play of Vaitai's night. And it's probably the one that led to his saying he thought he did better in pass protection than run blocking. He's lined up against Galette again, but this time the linebacker is going to make a nice move inside. 

Galette comes inside as Vaitai whiffs and is left falling to the turf before Blount even gets the ball on the handoff. 

Galette is able to force Blount back, while Vaitai is nowhere near the play. Eventually, Blount is dropped for a seven-yard loss.

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We'll end this on a positive play for Vaitai in the run game. This came on a 3rd-and-6 early in the fourth quarter. Wentz is in shotgun with Clement in the backfield. 

The Eagles are going to run right behind Big V on this one. 

After Kerrigan crashes in, Vaitai has to get a hat on linebacker Mason Foster. There's already plenty of room for Clement to work. 


Vaitai doesn't just hold this block for a split second. He drives through the linebacker and takes him for a ride. Clement was able to follow him the whole way and pick up the first down. 

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On Wednesday, Reich called Peters the best offensive lineman he's ever been around in his 30 years in the NFL. So, yeah, losing him is huge. But if Vaitai can just do what he did Monday night, the Eagles might just be OK.