Brandon Brooks' early exit complicated an already difficult situation for Andre Dillard and the Eagles

Brandon Brooks' early exit complicated an already difficult situation for Andre Dillard and the Eagles

In hindsight, the Eagles’ decision to start Andre Dillard at right tackle against the Seahawks on Sunday was ill-advised, to say the least.

Dillard struggled with the position change, forcing the Eagles to send their first-round draft pick back to the bench at halftime. And though the other options at that spot weren’t great, the rookie’s issues were predictable, as he played exclusively left tackle since his junior year in high school.

“If you do something one way your whole life and then you’ve suddenly gotta change it for the next five days, how would you feel,” said Dillard postgame. “It’s tough, but I just do my best for the team.”

The Eagles could’ve chosen Halapoulivaati Vaitai to replace Lane Johnson, who missed Sunday’s game with a concussion. Vaitai played poorly in relief of Johnson the previous week, either, but he’s at least played the position for the Eagles previously – quite well when coached up.

Vaitai has been at both left and right tackle, so he knows firsthand how difficult it is to move, admitting it wasn’t until after his first season he felt comfortable on either side.

“I understand what he’s going through,” said Vaitai. “It’s life. If your name is called, just go out there and have fun.

“He is a great athlete, just going different positions is a little overwhelming.”

Chosen with the 22nd pick and regarded by some draft experts as a top-10 talent, Dillard played the bulk of the snaps at left tackle in four games, including three starts, and was OK. At the very least, he still looks like a fine prospect at his natural position.

It wasn’t like writing an essay with your offhand, an analogy several Eagles O-lineman have been heard using recently, and apparently how Dillard felt about playing on the right with only a few days of practice.

“I just needed more reps,” said Vaitai, recalling his experience flipping sides.

Of course, Dillard may have found himself pressed into action at right tackle on Sunday regardless of the decision leading up to the game.

Right guard Brandon Brooks exited the game in the first half with an illness, forcing Vaitai into the lineup in his place. When Dillard eventually got the hook, Vaitai moved over to tackle, and 2018 sixth-round pick Matt Pryor saw his first offensive snaps as a pro.

“Everybody waits on that moment to get called,” said Pryor. “It’s exciting and stressful at the same time because you don’t know how it’s gonna go.”

A right side with Vaitai and Pryor each in positions they’re comfortable was a slight improvement, though the Eagles only found the end zone for the first time all game with 20 seconds in regulation.

Point being, no matter what the Eagles’ plans going in, Brooks’ exit complicated an already difficult situation, and may have forced the team to plug Dillard in at right tackle with no experience at all.

Presumably, both Brooks and Johnson will be able to return in the near future, which is a plus. The only other offensive linemen on the Eagles’ roster are undrafted rookie Nate Herbig and Jordan Mailata, who’s currently on injured reserve. Neither has appeared in a regular season game.

In the meantime, with whatever combination of Dillard, Vaitai and Pryor on the right side, the offensive line was not good enough on Sunday.

“They just outplayed us,” said Vaitai. “We’ve gotta step it up.”

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NFL trade deadline: Does trading Halapoulivaati Vaitai make sense for the Eagles?

NFL trade deadline: Does trading Halapoulivaati Vaitai make sense for the Eagles?

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Sunday against the Bills might end up being Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s final game in an Eagles uniform. 

Earlier this week, Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Davis mentioned that the Browns could possibly target Big V as a cheaper option if they can’t get a bigger-name offensive tackle. 

And on Sunday morning, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport again mentioned Vaitai as a possible fit for the Browns. And then he wrote this: 

“Several teams have been keeping an eye on him, so Philly may have a real market. But they could also re-sign him in the offseason or simply keep him for depth, so that factors into the price.”

Vaitai, 26, is in the final year of his rookie contract, so the idea here would be to trade Vaitai before he walks in free agency. But if he walks in free agency, the Eagles would likely get a compensatory pick back. So if they trade him for a draft pick, then they’d need to get better value. A player-for-player trade would also make some sense. 

While Vaitai probably isn’t a great option to start in the NFL, the former fifth-round pick has proven himself to be an adequate backup and has bolstered his stock this offseason as he learned how to play guard. 

But it’s not like Vaitai has no value with the Eagles. With Jason Peters out, Vaitai would pretty much be the next player off the bench regardless of who gets hurt. If either tackle or guard gets hurt, he’d probably fill in. And if Jason Kelce got hurt, Isaac Seumalo would likely take over and Vaitai would go to left guard. And even if the Eagles don’t need Vaitai to play a position on the line, he’s been lining up as an extra tight end/tackle plenty over the last few weeks. 

I actually thought the Eagles were going to try to sign Vaitai during the last offseason, but they didn’t get a deal done. It will probably be harder to get a deal done the closer he gets to free agency. 

Overall, the Eagles are probably more likely to be buyers than sellers at the deadline, but there are some players who it might make some sense to trade. Vaitai fits into that category, but the Eagles don’t have to trade him, which means they can sit back and see what offers come in. 

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Eagles Injury Update: Jason Peters, Andre Dillard injured in 1st half of game vs. Lions

Eagles Injury Update: Jason Peters, Andre Dillard injured in 1st half of game vs. Lions

Updated: 2:54 p.m.

The Eagles were down two left tackles in the second quarter.

Jason Peters left the game on the Eagles’ first drive of the second quarter and was replaced by rookie Andre Dillard. On the next drive, Dillard hurt his leg and had to be taken out. He went into the blue medical tent and then to the locker room.

That means the Eagles were down to Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle. I guess that’s decent depth, but this obviously wasn't ideal. Vaitai was the Eagles’ starting left tackle during the Super Bowl run a couple years ago.

Peters returned to the game in the third quarter.

Dillard is questionable to return. Defensive end Derek Barnett was also injured but returned in the third quarter.

The only other backup offensive lineman dressed for this game is guard/tackle Matt Pryor.

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