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Whatever happened to reliable, versatile Nate Herbig? The Eagles’ offensive line mystery deepens

Doug Pederson said Herbig is healthy, he just wasn't one of the team's nine best offensive linemen available for Sunday's game.

Nate Herbig played every snap of the Eagles' first eight games. Sunday he was inactive.
Nate Herbig played every snap of the Eagles' first eight games. Sunday he was inactive.Read morePhelan M. Ebenhack / AP

One of the few good things to come out of the extraordinary run of injuries along the Eagles’ offensive line this season has been the play of Nate Herbig, an undrafted second-year player who started the first eight games, five at left guard and three at right guard. Herbig played every snap, and showed a lot of raw power.

Herbig, 6-foot-4, 334, began the season as the replacement for Brandon Brooks (Achilles tear) on the right side, then went to the left when Isaac Seumalo suffered a knee injury, and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland decided Herbig was more adaptable than Matt Pryor. Then Herbig went back to the right when Pryor missed a game because of COVID-19 quarantining. Stoutland praised Herbig’s willingness to move around as needed.

But Herbig did not start Nov. 15 against the Giants, and didn’t play any offensive snaps. The official word was that he had a finger injury, which NBC10 said affected his entire hand. Herbig did not appear on the injury report leading up to the game in Cleveland. He was inactive, on a day when the Eagles ended up using all nine active offensive linemen. Seumalo returned from his knee injury at left guard, and Pryor started at right guard. Sua Opeta was the top backup guard.

“There’s nothing more to it,” coach Doug Pederson said Monday. “Opeta has deserved the opportunity right now, and with Isaac coming back, it was just, we had all the offensive linemen available and we had to put a couple of guys down, inactive for the game. Herbie’s doing fine. ... Each week he’s competing for one of those backup spots right now, or potentially a starter spot, if there’s an injury.”

The news that Herbig isn’t considered one of the Eagles’ top five offensive linemen right now surprised observers, who haven’t seen Pryor do anything great, and haven’t seen Opeta do much at all. Pro Football Focus gives Herbig a 64.0 overall grade for the season, 64.1 in pass-blocking and 63.7 in run-blocking. Pryor’s grades are 55.9, 58.9, and 53.3, though he did grade out well at Cleveland -- 64.9, 67.2, 61.0. Opeta’s grades are 57.6, 52.7, and 57.9.

Developing storylines

  1. The Eagles officially signed running back Jordan Howard to their practice squad Monday.

  2. Third-round rookie Davion Taylor, the linebacking project, got 18 defensive snaps Sunday, after getting 14 through the first nine games. Taylor was not a revelation. The tremendous goal-line stand after the Browns got first-and-goal from the Eagles’ 1 was aided greatly by the fact that Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield missed wide-open tight end Austin Hooper, with Taylor in coverage, on second down. Taylor later gave up a 21-yard Hooper catch, and was pancaked by a fullback on a third-down run.

  3. Two catches for 16 yards on a dozen targets for Travis Fulgham the past two games, but any perceived link with Alshon Jeffery’s return doesn’t withstand scrutiny. Jeffery played five snaps Sunday, Fulgham 65 of a possible 68. Fulgham was shut down, pretty much by Cleveland’s excellent corner, Denzel Ward. His only catch Sunday came against Ward, with Carson Wentz -- you guessed it -- rolling out, away from pressure.

  4. If only Wentz’s receivers could time leaps as well as Derek Barnett did in blocking that Cody Parkey field goal.

  5. It was rainy, windy, and cold, but if Greg Ward runs up and catches a punt at the 10 instead of letting it roll dead at the 2, the Browns don’t score that safety.

Who knew?

That Alex Singleton, waived six times in a journey that began in 2015 with Seattle, would end up becoming the Eagles’ best linebacker? That says a lot about Singleton’s determination. It says something less laudatory about the state of the Eagles’ roster.

Obscure stat

The Eagles have scored 79 points in their last four games -- 19.75 points per game. They haven’t hit the 30-point mark in any of their 10 games this season.