Carson Wentz’s feet will be a bit safer Sunday.
Isaac Seumalo is expected to return to his starting spot along the offensive line for the Eagles’ game Sunday at Cleveland, a week after backup left guard Sua Opeta struggled against the Giants.
With Opeta and fellow backup Matt Pryor both playing last Sunday, the lack of experience at guard during the 27-17 loss to the Giants was glaring, with the biggest lowlight happening when Opeta inadvertently tripped Wentz on a pivotal third-and-1 in the second quarter.
Seumalo missed the last six games because of a knee injury suffered during Week 2, joining Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks, and Andre Dillard as projected starters missing time because of injuries this season.
“Isaac’s had a really good week of practice,” Pederson said Friday morning. “I fully anticipate him being active and being available for this game. Obviously, today is a big day for him and us, but I would anticipate him being cleared and ready for this football game.”
The 27-year-old has been the team’s starting left guard since the midway point of the 2018 season and didn’t miss a game last year. Seumalo was added to the active roster Friday.
“Getting Isaac back is great,” running back Boston Scott said. “He’s gone through injuries and everything like that, so I’m just happy that he’s gonna be able to come out here and play the game that he loves. It’s gonna be cool to see him out there.”
With Seumalo’s return, the team should have four of its expected starters back on the offensive line, with the only spot with remaining uncertainty being at right guard. Nate Herbig, who has started games at both left and right guard this season, is dealing with a hand injury. The second-year player out of Stanford was active for Sunday’s game against the Giants but didn’t play any offensive snaps.
Before the injury, Herbig was playing well and drew praise for his ability to play both left and right guard. Pederson wouldn’t commit to naming anyone a starter on the right side, but said Herbig, Opeta, Pryor, and Jack Driscoll were possibilities.
“There’s options there, but we haven’t made the final decision yet on who that backup guard will be,” Pederson said.
Seumalo coming back isn’t the only thing that will have Peters sleeping easier. The Browns’ defensive front took a huge blow when Myles Garrett was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday morning. Garrett was missing from practice earlier this week with an illness.
Garrett’s well-being is obviously the highest priority, but it’s worth noting his absence will give the Eagles a significant competitive break. The 24-year-old has quickly emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL since the Browns took him first overall in 2017.
His 9.5 sacks this season lead the league, and he’s fourth in pass-rush win rate, an ESPN metric that measures how often a player sheds his block in less than 2.5 seconds.
“He’s a tremendous football player,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday. “He’s definitely in the discussions for defensive player of the year, he’s having a heck of a season. A leader on that football team. So, I can’t speak specifically on their behalf, but I know if it was obviously one of our players in that situation, it’s a blow. But you know what? Just like us, the next guy steps up, the next guy has to play, the next guy’s gonna be prepared, he’s gonna play hard. Listen, there’s 10 other guys on that defense that can also play and it’s a good defense. We’ve gotta be ready.”
Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert echoed Pederson’s sentiment, saying he could breathe a little easier without having to worry about Garrett.
“Anytime a great player like that goes down, it’s a little bit of a sigh of relief,” Goedert said. “But all of those defensive ends are NFL players on NFL football fields, so they’re going to be giving it their all and we have to do the same. But losing Myles Garrett, it’s definitely going to be a little bit of a loss, it’s gonna kind of allow us to breath a little bit more. You don’t have to look for 95 every play, it’s definitely an advantage.”
The Browns placed starting right tackle Jack Conklin and kicker Cody Parkey on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week, but Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski told ESPN he expects both players, including the former Eagles kicker, to be taken off the list on Saturday.
The Eagles are dealing with their own coronavirus issues after placing wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, running back Corey Clement, and defensive end Vinny Curry on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Also, wide receiver Deontay Burnett went on the practice-squad reserve/COVID-19 list. Only Arcega-Whiteside is believed to have tested positive. Wide receiver John Hightower has been held out of practice this week but has not been put on the reserve list.