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Eagles address offensive line injuries

Additions are made to the Eagles' roster because of injuries to Allen Barbre (out for year) and Evan Mathis (out 8 weeks).

Eagles offensive lineman Kevin Graf. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles offensive lineman Kevin Graf. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

THE EAGLES, who didn't have to place anyone on injured reserve once the season started in 2013, definitely aren't going to be able to say that this time.

One game into the 2014 slate, the team announced that right tackle Allen Barbre and reserve linebacker Najee Goode are going on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season. Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis is going on IR designated for return, with a torn left MCL, meaning he can practice again in 6 weeks and play in 8, presumably Nov. 10 against Carolina. Barbre, who left Sunday's season-opening victory over Jacksonville in the second quarter, a few plays after Mathis, probably will undergo right ankle surgery. Goode has a torn pectoral muscle.

Yesterday, the Eagles buttressed their offensive line - which was already missing the normal starting right tackle, Lane Johnson, for the first four games as he serves a banned-substance suspension - by signing veteran guard Wade Smith, who made the Pro Bowl two seasons ago with the Texans, and by bringing up tackle Kevin Graf from the practice squad. Goode was replaced by another practice-squad move, Emmanuel Acho rejoining the roster.

To cap a busy day at NovaCare - even if Eagles players had an extra day off with a Monday night game looming - on the practice squad, linebacker Brandon Hepburn and offensive lineman Tyler Hoover arrived, and linebacker Colton Underwood departed. Underwood was signed last week.

What does this all mean? Well, Smith, 6-4, 295, now 33, did not have a good year for the Texans in 2013 (not sure very many people did), and he was dropped by the Seahawks last month after a 3-week look. It's unlikely he steps into the starting lineup, but he does provide experience to a group that gets a lot younger without Mathis (32) and Barbre (30).

Smith has started 98 games and played in 138, with the Dolphins, Jets, Chiefs and Texans. He becomes the eighth former Texan on the Eagles' roster, joining linebackers Connor Barwin, DeMeco Ryans and Bryan Braman, tight end James Casey, tackle Andrew Gardner, punter Donnie Jones and wideout Jeff Maehl. Maehl is the intersection of the Venn diagram that plots the eight ex-Texans and the five ex-Oregon Ducks on the roster. (The practice squad tally is two ex-Ducks, no ex-Texans.)

The most likely starting o-line for Monday's game at Indianapolis is Jason Peters, Dennis Kelly, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Gardner, with an outside chance that Matt Tobin (ankle) can play in place of Gardner. Tobin was the Eagles' top offensive-line sub before he suffered a high ankle sprain in the final preseason game, Aug. 28.

Tobin watched practice last week with a sleeve on his leg. He did not seem to be limping, but generally, recovery from a high ankle sprain takes more than a few weeks.

Graf, 6-6, 309, an undrafted rookie from USC, was one of a number of relatively unheralded offensive linemen who played well for the Eagles in the preseason. His father and brother also were offensive linemen for the Trojans, which was one reason he turned down Chip Kelly's Oregon recruiting pitch.

They now work in Hollywood: Allen Graf, a member of the 1972 USC national championship team, is a second-unit director for such films as "Friday Night Lights," and Derek Graf is a stuntman.

Kelly, a fifth-round Eagles draftee in 2012, started 10 games that season when injuries completely overwhelmed the o-line. He underwent preseason back surgery, recovered by midseason, but did not get on the field under Chip Kelly and new offensive-line coach Jeff Stoutland. On Monday, Kelly lauded his preseason work.

This is a heavy blow for Barbre, who felt he'd finally found a system where he could flourish following less-than-successful appearances in Green Bay, Seattle and Miami. Before Sunday, Barbre hadn't started an NFL game since 2009, for the Packers.

Mathis got a second medical opinion this week that didn't differ from the first; only his MCL was damaged when LeSean McCoy was tackled into the back of Mathis' left leg, with 4:36 left in the first half.

Mathis has been trying since last winter to get a raise from the team, after a tremendous 2013 season. He signed for 5 years and $25.5 million early in 2012. The Eagles went so far last winter as to invite agent Drew Rosenhaus to find a team that wanted to pay Mathis more, and then work out a trade. They knew Mathis' age made that very unlikely, and indeed it did not happen.

Through his agent, Johnson said he would rather not talk during his suspension, would prefer the spotlight go to the active players, but he was upset initially at the position he'd put his teammates in by what he said was failing to check whether something he took for a health condition contained banned ingredients. Johnson is said to be even more upset now that two long-term injuries have further weakened the unit.

The Birds' linebacking corps was one of the team's thinnest groups in training camp and it lost a valuable sub in the final preseason game, when Travis Long tore an ACL. He was going to swing between outside and inside positions as needed. Goode was the top inside sub; had the Eagles not promoted Acho, they would have had only Casey Matthews there behind Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.

Acho, 23, is 6-2, 240; he played six games for the Eagles last season.


Ifeanyi Momah, the 6-7 wideout who was an Eagles training-camp project the past two summers, signed onto the Browns' practice squad yesterday . . . The Eagles had another ex-Texan offensive lineman, NFLPA president Eric Winston, in for a visit before they signed Wade Smith. That would have been an interesting signing in light of the talks between the league and the union over drug-policy revisions. Player reps, presumably including DeMeco Ryans, discussed a league proposal last night but did not vote on it, according to various reports.