It looked like "Big V" was heading for another big disaster.
It was almost impossible to watch Julius Peppers go around Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the fifth play of Thursday night's game and not think back to his first start last year, when Washington's Ryan Kerrigan turned him into a turnstile.
That's the way things looked when the 37-year-old Peppers went around Vaitai and got a strip sack on Carson Wentz to set up the Panthers' first drive in great position.
"Yeah, it's unfortunate," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He took just a bad set line on the sack. He learned from it, obviously, the hard way. But, hey, listen, Peppers is a great player. But he settled in. He did some nice things after that. Trust his technique. Trust his fundamentals, and he did a nice job. It's great to see, again, a young player step in on a short week and play against a fine defensive end like he did. It just gives us a lot of confidence moving forward with him."
It was a bad start for "Big V," who was filling in for a concussed Lane Johnson, but it didn't turn into a complete disaster.
"After that first drive, I bounced back and I trusted my coach," Vaitai said after the Eagles' 28-23 win. "There's always room for improvement so I'm going to take the time off, reflect and then come back ready to work."
No, Vaitai wasn't great the rest of the game, but he wasn't awful either. He at least didn't ruin the Eagles' entire game plan.
And while the Birds finished 2-8 without Lane Johnson last year, they're now 1-0 without him this season.
Getting Vaitai ready to start in just a few days probably wasn't very easy. Johnson suffered a first-half concussion against the Cardinals and the short week didn't allow him enough time to clear the league's concussion protocol.
Then, on Thursday night, the Panthers sent all kinds of blitzes and used a lot of D-line stunts that seemed to confuse the Eagles early. Eventually, the Birds were able to settle down and figure out where the blitzes were coming from.
Thursday was the 2016 fifth-round pick's seventh career start. He had played this season as an extra tackle in run formations; that role was assumed by Isaac Seumalo against the Panthers.
Johnson will have extra time to clear the NFL's concussion protocol because the next game is a Monday night tilt. So it seems likely Vaitai will be heading back to the bench. But maybe he'll have more confidence after taking a punch and getting back up.
"Being the sixth man off the bench, it's unfortunate for Lane," Vaitai said, "but that is my job and so I have to step up and fulfill that."