Right move for Eagles and Herremans?

Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson (right) chat with offensive line coach Howard Mudd.
Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson (right) chat with offensive line coach Howard Mudd. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 24, 2011

MAYBE KING Dunlap, who looks about as much like a Howard Mudd offensive lineman as I look like Brad Pitt, will go out there tomorrow night and do a bang-up job against the Browns, and we all finally will be able to stop worrying about Michael Vick's blindside.

And maybe not.

Maybe Winston Justice, whose recovery from what was described as "routine cleanout" surgery on his left knee last February now is entering its third trimester, will wake up tomorrow, jump out of bed and shout, "Cheese and crackers, my knee feels gggrrrrreat! Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play."

And maybe not.

Maybe Ryan Harris' back will stop spasming long enough to convince Mudd and head coach Andy Reid that he can be their Week 1 starter at right tackle.

And maybe not.

Maybe somebody else, like Evan Mathis or Austin Howard or Fenuki Tupou or Reggie Wells or Dawn Wells or the Maytag Repairman will step up and grab the right tackle job and run with it.

And maybe not.

If the maybe-nots pile up high enough, Mudd and Reid have one other option at their disposal. It's not a bad one as far as fixing the right tackle problem is concerned. But it would mean messing with the rock-solid left side of their line. It would mean moving left guard Todd Herremans over to right tackle.

On his radio show that he doesn't think anyone listens to on Monday, Reid said, "I always know if things don't work out, Todd has played tackle, so I can always make a move there if I had to do that."

Yesterday, with a roomful of reporters in front of him, Reid preferred to take a more glass-is-half-full approach, which is something I'm only vaguely familiar with.

"The thing is," he said when I asked him how serious an option moving Herremans to right tackle was, "Winston is coming back and King did a nice job last week, and we brought Reggie in and he's been working out a little bit [at right tackle]. So we have some options there I want to look at."

It's a funny thing about the Eagles. After all of their late-July free-agent acquisitions, they clearly are one of the league's more talented teams, at least on paper. At the same time, they are a house of cards.

If they don't find someone capable to protect Vick's blindside, he: a) isn't going to have time to throw the ball to his Who's Who cast of receivers, and b) probably will be on injured reserve by late October.

If Vick goes down, the offense will falter. And if the offense falters, the defense, which was built to play against teams that have to play catch-up and throw the ball a lot, will be in trouble as well.

Dunlap is a nice guy, but I just don't think the 6-9, 330-pounder is an NFL starting right tackle. Justice's knee troubles have lingered far too long to make me believe he can be ready for Week 1. And even if he can get healthy, he's really not all that much of an improvement over Dunlap.

I applauded the Harris signing last month. When he's healthy, he's one of the league's better pass-blocking right tackles. But he's not healthy, and God only knows when he will be, or whether he'll be able to stay that way for more than a couple of hours.

Herremans isn't opposed to moving to right tackle. He and Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters have developed into one of the better left-side blocking tandems in the league. But he'll do whatever they want him to do.

"I think about it," he said of the possibility of moving to right tackle. "But it's not like I don't feel we have capable guys on our team who can play that position.

"Jason and I have a good thing going on the left side right now. If they ever [ask me to move], or until they do, I'll just keep playing left guard."

A tackle in college, all but five of Herremans' 76 NFL starts have been at left guard. He started four games at left tackle as a rookie in 2005 when Tra Thomas was hurt, and moved over to left tackle for a game in '09 when Peters was injured. He's never played on the right side in the pros.

"I don't think he'd be lost out there [at right tackle]," said Brian Baldinger, an analyst for NFL Network who spent 11 years as an NFL offensive lineman. "I think mentally, he would be good. But if you're not used to working outside and getting a lot of reps there, you're not going to be as confident as you would be playing inside.

"The knock on Todd is that he's got short arms. But Todd's not a guy who spends a lot of time locking guys all the way out. They're long enough to play the [tackle] position. He's not going to see the elite pass-rusher on that [right] side that he would if he were at left tackle. He'd be fine."

Clearly, the Eagles don't want to move Herremans unless they absolutely, positively have to. He and Peters played well together last season. While the right side of the line was a mess, the left side was solid.

They've got people they can plug in at left guard if they move him over, but none of them would be as good as Herremans, and none of them would have the chemistry with Peters that he had.

"You'd be weakening that side, no matter who they put in there," Baldinger said. "Todd and Jason play really well together. It was a good left side last year. That would be the main deterrent to me in not doing it.

"But it is Mike Vick's blindside we're talking about, and that might play a little bit into them doing it."

One other thing that might discourage them from moving Herremans to right tackle is his contract situation. Herremans, an '05 fourth-round pick, signed one of those infamous below-market contract extensions in '06 that has him tied to the Eagles through 2013 or his 86th birthday, whichever comes first.

He's scheduled to make just $1.9 million this season, $2.1 million next year and $2.2 million in 2013. Justice, who isn't anywhere close to the player Herremans is, will earn $800,000 more than him this season. Bottom line: If they move him to right tackle and he plays well there, you can bet the ranch he's going to want more money.


For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News'

Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

Follow Paul Domowitch on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PDomo.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|