The timing was a little odd. Two days after a shaky performance in his NFL preseason debut, Isaac Seumalo got promoted into the Eagles’ starting lineup.
Seumalo, a rookie third-round pick, admittedly was not very good in the Eagles’ preseason opener against the Buccaneers on Thursday night.
“I’m a really harsh critic of myself and hold myself to a high standard and Thursday was not where I want to be,” Seumalo said after practice Saturday.
“At the same time, I understand it’s preseason and it’s my first game, blah, blah, blah, this and that, but I can’t really think of that. I just try to think what can I do to get better, what can I work on, how do I mentally and physically prepare leading up to games. What can I just do to get better?”
Seumalo’s promotion to starting left guard came after left guard Allen Barbre was moved to right tackle to replace Lane Johnson, who said he expects to be suspended for 10 games by the NFL for using a banned substance (see story).
Are the moves permanent? We’ll see. But right now, a month before opening day, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound rookie from Oregon State has the inside track on the starting left guard spot.
If Seumalo does start against the Browns on Sept. 11, he’d be the first rookie guard to make an opening-day start for the Eagles since first-round pick Shawn Andrews in 2004.
“We're just trying to see him next to [Jason] Kelce, next to [Jason] Peters, the communication there,” head coach Doug Pederson said.
“He's really putting himself in a position to possibly play at that spot, if not rotate into that spot. So it was good to see him get some reps not only (Saturday), but the next couple of days.”
Seumalo said he feels like he’s been practicing well, better than he played Thursday night against the Buccaneers.
“It’s all about playing fast, so I try not to think as much,” he said. “The game wasn’t great, but practices have been going well.”
The entire second-team offensive line was bad Thursday night. Seumalo was right there with them.
“I just started overthinking stuff, and when you do that, you play slow, and you can’t do that in the NFL,” he said. “That’s what you learn. Hopefully, it’s all uphill from here.
“Kelce told me something really good that he does, he kind of focuses on something that helps him trigger to play fast, and I thought about that, and to me it’s just about finishing every play, and that’s something I’ve got to do.
“It’s just got to be effortless so that when I go out there I don’t think about it and I can play as fast as I can.
“I know mentally, playbook, I can get that stuff down. It’s the physical reps. Going up against really good players, and then when the lights come on Thursdays or Sundays, it’s all about playing fast, because guys are too good in the NFL to over-think.”
Eagles offense line coach Jeff Stoutland gave Seumalo the nod at left guard ahead of Stefen Wisniewski, a sixth-year pro and veteran of 77 career starts at center and guard with the Raiders and Jaguars.
Now things could certainly change, but Seumalo wouldn’t be in there with the first group now if the coaches didn’t think he could handle it.
But he said running with the 1’s was no different for him than working with the 2’s.
“Just like any other practice,” he said. “Go out there and work on the stuff you’ve got to work on.”
Seumalo does have a Pro Bowler on each side of him, although left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce both had their issues last year.
But at least for now, that does give him a comfort zone.
“Whatever happens will happen,” he said. “If I’m there, those guys make it easy. They’re veterans and really talented guys and with their work ethic and their demeanor and their professionalism, they make it easy, and I look up to those guys and try to be a sponge and do what they tell me to do.”
What’s the next step?
“What to do. How to do it. When to do it,” he said. “That’s all practice. You can think about it out here as you rep it and rep it. Once the game starts, you can’t. That stuff has to just click.
“It’s like that strive for perfection. I don’t know if you’ll ever reach it, but the closer I can get to it, the less thinking, the better.
“The more unconscious you play, the faster you play, so that’s always what I’m striving for.”