As expected, Chance Warmack got the start Sunday at left guard for the Eagles. The surprising part was Stefen Wisniewski wound up playing the majority of the snaps.
Warmack wound up being on the field for 32 plays against the Giants, compared to 44 for Wisniewski. It’s not as if Warmack exited the game with an injury or was benched for poor play, either. The two of them alternated throughout the contest.
After the game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson acknowledged the plan was to rotate Warmack and Wisnewski all along.
“We wanted to give both of those guys an opportunity [Sunday], and it just so happened that Wis ended up taking the bulk of the reps,” Pederson said. “But we had them both ready.”
Pederson added the rotation was based on in-game performance. The next day, however, he wasn’t ready to settle on a permanent starter at left guard.
“There was some positives with both players,” Pederson said Monday. “Chance had a couple of missed opportunities early in the game, but bounced back and in the run game was effective. At the same time, Wis getting an opportunity — Wis is that veteran player you know when you put him in that he's going to execute and do some nice things for you.
“It's something we'll evaluate this week again going forward, and by Sunday, we'll have the best five out there.”
That means Warmack and Wisniewski could continue auditioning for the job in Week 4 when the Eagles travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers.
“If someone at that position just steps up, we definitely could go into a game with seven guys,” Pederson said.
Despite shuffling different players in and out, the offensive line turned in its best performance of the season so far. Eagles running backs rushed 33 times for 171 yards — a 5.2 average — and two touchdowns, while quarterback Carson Wentz was hit on only four of 37 dropbacks.
While continuity is essential to quality offensive line play, Pederson has repeatedly downplayed that notion, likening changes up front to substitutions at other positions.
“These guys are all prepared the same, so we shouldn't miss a beat one way or the other just by rotating at that position,” Pederson said.
“The way our guys practice and the way (Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) prepares these guys, it's seamless. It's flawless, and that's the way it should be. As backup role players, you're expected to know what a starter does. Same as a backup quarterback, you should be expected to do the same thing.”
Several of the Eagles’ veteran linemen didn’t disagree.
“Both of those guys — I played beside before, so it’s not a big deal,” said left tackle Jason Peters, adding he did not know beforehand who would be lining up to his right.
“The thing is, they’ve had numerous reps,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “That’s what are OTAs are for. You get numerous reps, so when your number is called, you’re not caught off guard.”
Of course, that’s easy for everybody else to say. Warmack and Wisniewski are almost certainly trying to make the best of a difficult situation.
Warmack was unavailable for comment postgame, but Wisnewski admitted there are some challenges involved with subbing in and out.
“It’s definitely easier for anybody to be in there and feel the flow of the game, whether you’re a running back, an offensive lineman, whoever,” Wisniewski said. “But we made it work today.
“We’re all pros. Mentally, all you can do is be ready when they call your number and try to stay warm on the sideline.”
The situation at left guard came about because second-year pro Isaac Seumalo struggled in his first two starts. Pederson stresses the club hasn’t lost faith in Seumalo, and “he’s still in the mix.” But for the time being, at least, the Eagles appear determined to go in a different direction at that spot.
Thus, the ongoing competition — while unorthodox — probably is not as unique or atypical as it sounds.
“I actually talked to (former Eagles offensive lineman) Allen Barbre last night,” Johnson said. “They’re doing the same thing with him in Denver. It’s not out of the ordinary. They have two guys, want to see what they can do and see who the better man is.”
In this case, the Eagles have two players with vastly different skill sets, so it makes sense to see which meshes better with their teammates.
“Wis is more of a technician,” Peters said. “He’s almost like a center at guard, which he really is. He knows the offense, he’s giving calls, more of a communicator. And Chance is more of an aggressor. He wants to get into the linebackers.”
Wisniewski could not personally remember an occasion where he was rotating in and out of the lineup during a game. Regardless, the Eagles picked up a victory over the NFC East rival Giants, so for one week anyway, it was all good.
“The guys around us, (Eagles center Jason Kelce) and JP did well rolling with it,” Wisniewski said. “It worked out well. Got a win, ran the ball well and protected well as a whole.”
Long-term, it would behoove the Eagles to settle on a permanent starter sooner rather than later.