Eagles coach Doug Pederson was asked this week if Nate Herbig would remain the starting right guard for the home opener Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
Herbig, 22, who played three whole snaps last season as an undrafted rookie, started at Washington Week 1 alongside rookie right tackle Jack Driscoll. It was a less-than-ideal situation against one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts, and the Eagles lost, 27-17.
“It’s Nate’s job right now, and he has to do everything he can to keep that,” Pederson said, after the Eagles brought up guard-tackle Sua Opeta from their practice squad and signed veteran guard-tackle Jamon Brown from the Bears' practice squad.
Pederson did everything but say, “we’d sure like for someone to beat him out.”
Had Pederson grown up in the South, and not Washington state, he might have just said: “It’s Nate’s job right now, bless his heart.”
But all indications are, it will still be Herbig’s job when the offense takes the field against the Rams, at least.
Herbig, listed at 6-foot-4, 334, said Thursday that he found out late last week he was about to get his first NFL start, so he tried “to take things in stride and do my best.”
He acknowledged, “it was a surprise to me,” after Jason Peters started training camp as the starting right guard, then Matt Pryor moved back from left tackle to right guard when Peters agreed to play left tackle.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is a big Herbig booster. Stoutland’s idea last year was to groom Herbig as a backup and eventual successor to center Jason Kelce, since Isaac Seumalo seems to be settling in as the starting left guard. At one time, Herbig was a well-regarded draft prospect, but he had an injury-marred, disappointing senior year at Stanford, and was bypassed in the draft. He has said he cherished the opportunity to come to the Eagles and learn under Stoutland.
Herbig said Thursday that he has learned a lot “just being in the room” with Kelce, Peters, Seumalo, Brandon Brooks, and others. “How seriously they take it, with coach Stout, drumming the playbook into me. ... You have to learn it. That’s how the room goes. Such a high standard, I feel like, and you have to be on point, because they all are," he said.
Herbig apparently will line up to the left of Lane Johnson, not Driscoll, this week, and that ought to help. Herbig trained with Johnson in South Jersey during the offseason.
“He’s one of the best in the business. Just training with him, you can see why – the way that he trains and how hard he trains and the work that he does. He doesn’t waste any movement. ... Obviously, I feel like that will elevate my game, if I get to play next to one of the best,” Herbig said.
Signs continued to be positive for the return of several injured Eagles. Lane Johnson (ankle) reiterated that he plans to play. Miles Sanders (hamstring) was a full practice participant, as was Derek Barnett (hamstring). Brandon Graham, still working his way through the NFL concussion protocol, was a limited participant and seems on track to play, barring setbacks.
Alshon Jeffery (foot) and Javon Hargrave (pec, hamstring) seem to be the only non-injured-reserve Eagles who won’t be playing.