This time last week, Nate Herbig was the biggest question mark on the Eagles' offensive line. Now it’s Matt Pryor’s turn.
The team’s offensive front has undergone constant change all summer, with injuries ending the seasons of right guard Brandon Brooks and left tackle Andre Dillard. The line lost its third starter for the foreseeable future when left guard Isaac Seumalo (knee) was placed on injured reserve after he left the Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the first half. Seumalo’s absence leaves the Eagles with two young, inexperienced players flanking center Jason Kelce.
Herbig, an undrafted free agent from 2019, did surprisingly well against Aaron Donald, one of the best defensive tackles in recent memory. The 22-year-old had a rocky first career start against Washington in the season opener — there was uncertainty the week leading in if he’d even remain the starter against the Rams — but he bounced back.
Herbig was the Eagles' second-best offensive player graded by Pro Football Focus, behind only right tackle Lane Johnson, although he did have frequent double-team help whenever matched up against Donald.
Johnson, who made his first start alongside Herbig Sunday after missing the opener with an ankle injury, said he enjoyed playing with the second-year lineman.
“I just like his energy,” Johnson said. “He’s a young pup out there. He gets me going, seeing the excitement in his eyes, getting a few starts under his belt. He’s a guy that just keeps progressing. ... I like going to work with guys like that."
Herbig will have to string together more than just one game of solid play before being completely undeserving of worry from the Eagles' coaching staff. But this week will put Pryor squarely ahead of Herbig in terms of uncertainty going into Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The sixth-round pick in 2018, Pryor had an apparent fall from grace at the end of training camp. He was filling in as the starting left tackle after Dillard’s injury, but that spot was eventually filled by Jason Peters' move from right guard to left tackle. Some thought Pryor would take the vacant right-guard spot, but he was passed over for Herbig. When Johnson missed the opener, both Jack Driscoll and Jordan Mailata played instead of Pryor at right tackle.
But with Seumalo on injured reserve, Pryor is now the young interior lineman fighting to keep his job during practice this week. He came in for Seumalo against the Rams and helped the Eagles keep Carson Wentz free from sacks.
“Pryor came in and actually did some good things,” coach Doug Pederson said. “It wasn’t perfect. There were some calls that he missed, and you could see he and Kelce kind of talking after plays, between plays, whatever, and again, that’s just part of being a backup. But overall, those guys, as you mentioned, played much better than the week before.”
The Eagles could go with Pryor again Sunday, or possibly Jamon Brown, signed off the Chicago Bears' practice squad last week.
“Losing a guy like [Seumalo] is huge for us,” Johnson said. “We need him in the room helping with the young guys. But I think Herby’s stepping up, Pryor’s stepping up. All these young guys are getting in and getting playing experience, and they’ll keep getting better each week.”