It sure looks like Matt Pryor will start at right guard for the Eagles in their wild-card game against the Seahawks Sunday.
Pretty significant considering Pryor has never started a playoff game.
Or a regular-season game.
Barring a miracle recovery by Lane Johnson, Pryor will become the first offensive lineman in franchise history to make his first career start in the postseason. He would be the first Eagle to make his first start in the playoffs at any position since safety Quintin Demps started in the 2008 wild-card game against the Vikings.
With Johnson still hobbled with a high ankle sprain and looking unlikely to play Sunday, Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the likely starter at right tackle, with Pryor — Vaitai’s college teammate at TCU — expected to start at right guard.
If Johnson is able to go — and he wasn’t at practice all week — Big V would start at right guard.
But the Eagles are planning for Pryor and Vaitai starting in the biggest game of the year in place of two Pro Bowlers, Brandon Brooks and Johnson.
Pryor’s had a lot of reps, V’s had a lot of reps at both spots,” Jason Kelce said. “We feel good and confident with either of those two guys. Both those guys have shown they can do the job, they’ve gotten all the reps during the week, and Stout (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) does a great job getting those guys ready.
Vaitai has started 23 games, and he’s held down right tackle the last three weeks, with Johnson out. He started at left tackle during the Super Bowl run two years ago.
The last time the Eagles played without either Brooks or Johnson was in Washington in 2016.
“V has played right tackle and he’s played well,” Pederson said. “Pryor has played right guard and he’s played well and he’s filled in for Brandon when need be.”
Vaitai isn’t the most consistent offensive lineman ever, but he’s played fairly well so far this year, and he was a Super Bowl starter.
Pryor has played only 79 NFL snaps on offense in his life, all in the last few weeks.
“He’s physical,” Kelce said. “He has all the physical attributes you’d want in a guard or a tackle. He’s tall, he’s long, he’s big, he’s powerful. The biggest thing you’re looking for with Matt since he’s been here is just consistency and that’s the biggest thing with young guys in general, especially guys that have all the physical attributes. You’re waiting for everything to click and that consistency to step up and Matt’s done that. In the games we’ve asked him to play in he’s been very consistent for us.”
Pryor, a 6th-round pick last year, never got off the bench as a rookie. He was inactive for 17 games and a DNP-CD in the other.
But he learned as much as he could, studied all the all-pros around him and waited his turn.
“I came in knowing what I was getting into,” he said. “I knew who was on the O-line and regardless of if I was going to play when I first got here or not I was just happy to be where I was because there was so much experience on the o-line and it was just going to help me perfect my craft.
“We had Chance (Warmack) here, we had Wiz (Stefen Wisniewski), we had about 13 people in the o-line room. But even then it was been the same mentality. Beginning of the season (Stoutland) comes in and says, ‘Your time’s going to come so be prepared,’ and that’s the same mentality I’ve been carrying since then.”
It’s definitely a dropoff from Brooks and Johnson to Pryor and Vaitai. How big that dropoff is will go a long way toward determining whether the Eagles are still playing football next week.
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