With starting right tackle Lane Johnson likely facing a four game suspension, the Eagles will need to replace him (duh). The Eagles' only proven backup offensive lineman on the roster is Allen Barbre, who can play either tackle or guard spot.
While most agree that Barbre is a quality player who can fill in adequately for Johnson, what is lesser known about him are his strengths and weaknesses. Last season, Barbre filled in for an injured Jason Peters in Green Bay and played 52 snaps. Trying to break down a player based on one game is not nearly enough to come to any hard conclusions, but it is essentially all we have to work with for now. Still, in those 52 snaps, there were a number of plays that began to give us some very good clues as to what Barbre is as a player.
*Note -- In all of the clips in this post, Barbre is lined up at left tackle, unless otherwise noted. Barbre is #76.
To begin, we'll compare his measurables with Johnson, who is known for his freakish athleticism. At the 2013 NFL Combine, Johnson absolutely put on a show. Here is where Johnson ranked in comparison to other OTs who have competed at the Combine since 1999:
As you can see, Johnson's weight was low in comparison to other offensive tackles around the league, which is why he tried to bulk up this offseason. But his athletic metrics are off the charts. While the Eagles will miss Johnson's athleticism, it's not as if Barbre is some kind of unathletic slug. His height and weight aside, Barbre too tested very well at the Combine.
As you can see, Barbre's athletic measureables are very good. His size... not so much.
Testing well at the Combine is one thing, but does it show up on the field? Here's an example where Barbre has no effect on the outcome of the play, but we get to see his impressive athleticism. In the screen-shot below, note that the Eagles go with an unbalanced line, moving Barbre over to the right side. Barbre is circled.
The run is to the left side, and initially, Barbre is little more than a spectator. But once the play develops and LeSean McCoy finds some daylight, watch the big guy motor down the field looking to crush DBs. This is highly impressive speed for an offensive tackle.
OK, great. So he can run. But can he block? As a pass protector, yes, he can. Let's look at a few examples.
This was the first play Barbre stepped on the field after Peters got hurt against the Packers. Green Bay tested Barbre immediately, sending a safety blitz to his side. At the snap, Barbre engages with ROLB Mike Neal (#96). The Eagles have a numbers advantage up front with Barbre, Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce blocking Neal and B.J. Raji (#90). Barbre sees the blitz, disengages from Neal (who is also being blocked by Mathis), and has the quickness to get out and easily shove aside the blitzing safety (#43, M.D. Jennings). That gives Nick Foles plenty of time to throw down the field, and the result is good.
There were also several occasions in which Barbre was matched up one-on-one with stud pass rusher Clay Matthews (playing with a cast on his hand), and Barbre owned him.
Here's a play in which Matthews has all kinds of space to win a one-on-one matchup with Barbre. Matthews tried to get low and bend around the corner, but is denied, and again, we see the outcome of the play.
Barbre also has a mean streak, and will finish his blocks. Here, he gets some help on a chip by McCoy, but watch him take out both Matthews and Evan Mathis as the ball is coming out.
And then finally, again locked up one-on-one, just watch what Barbre does to Matthews here. This is freaking awesome.
So... Can he run block?
Barbre's run blocking is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he is very effective when the Eagles put him in position to use his quickness. For example, watch this block on B.J. Raji below. At the snap, left guard Evan Mathis is immediately going to fire off to the second level, and it's Barbre's job to get over as quickly as he can to block Raji. This is a difficult block to execute, but Barbre does it perfectly. Raji's initial move is to the outside, so Barbre, showing off his good feet, simply slips inside of him and seals off the hole. And again, we see the result of the play.
But it's not all good.
The Eagles could have trouble running to the edge on Barbre's side the first four weeks of the season, and that's no small thing. In the Packer game, there were quite a few times where the edge defender was able to engage with Barbre and push him deep into the backfield. This is where Barbre's lack of size hurts him. I'll just show all of these together. Forget the result of some of the following plays, and focus on Barbre's inability to anchor.
Here, Barbre is at right tackle.
And back to left tackle.
Nobody moves Jason Peters like that.
So can the Eagles survive with Allen Barbre at right tackle for a few games while Lane Johnson serves his suspension? Absolutely. He may even be better in pass protection than Johnson is at this stage in his career, however, he is by no means as physical a presence as Johnson as a run blocker.
The Eagles can afford to lose one tackle or guard along the OL in short spurts because of Barbre's versatility/ability. But if they lose anyone else between now and Week 4, they could be in big trouble.