There is considerable confidence at the NovaCare Complex in Barbre, who could become a late bloomer, similar to Evan Mathis. Barbre was undistinguished early in his career with Green Bay, Miami, and Seattle.
The Eagles signed him in January 2013, and he impressed the new coaching staff last season. Barbre was the team's top reserve and played well while filling in for Jason Peters during a November win over the Packers.
"He's big, he's physical," Kelly said. "He's a very, very strong-handed guy. When he gets his hands on people, he can really move people. . . . When he gets some extended playing time, especially in the Green Bay game, when Jason was out, he did a really, really nice job at left tackle for us."
The Eagles so valued Barbre that they gave him a three-year contract extension June 3. That was right after Johnson learned about his suspension. The timing might seem more than coincidental, but general manager Howie Roseman said there was no correlation.
"Those things take time, and this was before we knew anything about Lane," Roseman said. "It was a priority for us to get him signed to a contract during the offseason, like we did a bunch of our other players."
Barbre signed the contract without assurance of a starting job. Before Johnson's suspension was disclosed, Barbre was the top reserve at both tackle and guard spots. Kelly said he would have pushed the starter, but Barbre's role was depth.
"For them to show confidence in me enough to sign me shows that they trust me, so I will just come out and do my part," Barbre said, later adding: "Whether I'm a backup or I'm a starter, I want my team to trust me."
Kelly said the biggest adjustment for Barbre is playing on the right side. Barbre is more comfortable on the left, where most of his experience has come. Kelly wanted Barbre taking first-team snaps from the first practice because he needs time to get used to playing right tackle. Barbre said the adjustment involves the nuances of the position - specifically, his footwork and balance.
"I'm probably as comfortable over there, but I played a lot more on the left," Barbre said. "I still feel like I can play well and go in and do my assignment."
Barbre did not put much stock in the Green Bay game as his defining performance, indicating that he had started before. Quarterback Nick Foles said the team has had the benefit of seeing him in practice each day. Foles called Barbre a "beast."
The Eagles need Barbre to validate the acclaim because he is their starting right tackle for the first month of the season.
Kelly said "the ball's in his court" about whether Johnson can remain in the lineup thereafter. Another player could emerge, injuries could beset the roster, or the Eagles could juggle the positions on the offensive line. But Kelly's confidence in Barbre was evident from the first snap Saturday.
"I'm worried about today," Kelly said. "Today we're starting Allen Barbre at right tackle, and we'll go from there."
Backup quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley looked sharper than they had, for the most part, in the spring. Sanchez was especially accurate, shooting darts into tight windows and hitting a few receivers downfield.
Receiver Damaris Johnson didn't do himself any favors on the first day. He dropped a pass during one drill and fumbled a kickoff return. His odds of making the team remain long.
The Eagles train at 11:35 a.m. Sunday at the NovaCare Complex. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis will address reporters before practice. Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will have news conferences after practice.
- Jeff McLane