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Eagles' Allen Barbre: In guard they trust

Barbre is pushing 31 and has started eight games in his career, but he’s the heir apparent to Todd Herremans.

Eagles offensive lineman Allen Barbre. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles offensive lineman Allen Barbre. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

WHILE THE Eagles' front office was busy last week not drafting an offensive lineman, Allen Barbre was home in rural Missouri tending to chores.

Barbre was fixing up a cabin he'd like to sell. Taking care of his 10 beef cattle. "It's country [there]. Laid-back . . . I like to be a little secluded," Barbre said yesterday, after OTA work at NovaCare.

While Barbre worked, he was not paying any attention, he said, to the fact that the Eagles, in the biggest upset of their 2015 draft, did not add anyone who might threaten Barbre's position as Todd Herremans' replacement at right guard.

This was 2 years in a row without the Birds drafting an offensive lineman, for the first time in franchise history. It was, among other things, a huge vote of confidence in Barbre, a journeyman former Packer, Seahawk and Dolphin who has started eight NFL games in his career, and turns 31 next month.

"They trust me enough to put me in there. I want to prove that I can do it for the team," Barbre said. "I've had a couple years I got injured. I bounced around a little bit. I started at right tackle a little while at Green Bay; it just didn't go the way I wanted it."

Seven of those eight career starts came for the Packers in 2009, Barbre then in his third season, after arriving as a fourth-round draft pick from Missouri Southern. He failed at that opportunity, and it was a long time before he got another.

A four-game, performance-enhancing drug suspension with Seattle in 2012 led to Barbre being released and sitting out that season. A year ago, he began 2014 as the Eagles' starting right tackle, while Lane Johnson served a drug suspension, but in the opener against Jacksonville, Barbre suffered a high ankle sprain serious enough to require surgery and end his campaign.

"Some of it was on me. Some of it was the timing. It all works out in the end," Barbre said. "I'd never played on the right [before getting the chance to start at right tackle for the Packers]. I didn't transition well over there. I didn't play as well as they wanted me to or I wanted to. Everything was opposite for me; I wasn't as explosive, I wasn't as strong, I wasn't as balanced over there."

Barbre said he feels he now plays the right side as well as the left.

The Eagles have liked him ever since he signed in the 2013 offseason. That year at Green Bay, of all places, Barbre had to jump in at left tackle for injured Jason Peters. Barbre played well and the Eagles won, something coaches cited when explaining why he was tabbed to start during Johnson's four-game absence last year.

"You can see the way a guy works in practice. You can see the way a guy moves during drills with offensive linemen, during 'team' with the defensive line," center Jason Kelce said yesterday, when asked about the coaches' confidence in Barbre. "You can kind of scale where you think he's going to be in a game-type situation. They certainly trust him. When he's gone in for us, he's done a great job."

Herremans started 124 Eagles games over 10 seasons, playing both guard and tackle. At 6-6, 321, he was a different body type than Barbre, 6-4, 310.

"He's a very physical guy, strong guy, really athletic for how big he is," Kelce said of Barbre. "Todd obviously had more experience; he was a guy who really had a wealth of knowledge, in terms of handling every single situation that was going to come up during a game . . . he was a guy that could really help me get my job done from a mental aspect, and a calling [of blocking scheme] aspect.

"I think physically, Allen at this point, just being a little bit younger and a little bit stronger, probably has a little bit of a leg up on him there."

Kelce acknowledged he was surprised the Birds didn't draft for the o-line, but he said he understood the rationale, about sticking with the best value in each round.

"I think that we're a very solid offensive line, as we are right now," he said. "I think we have a chance to be a great offensive line . . . It'll be fun to see how this thing goes."

Kelce said he thinks offensive-line coach Jeff Stoutland will produce good depth from the guys already on hand and from the four offensive linemen the Birds signed as undrafted free agents. Barbre said he thinks very highly of Stoutland.

"I love, for the most part, everything that he does, everything he's about," Barbre said. "How he wants to work, and focus on details and technique, I enjoy it and I appreciate how he approaches it, and tries to really help you as an individual."

Barbre said he "doesn't really think of this as a last-chance opportunity" to start, but it almost surely is, and it could have been seriously threatened by a high-round draft selection on the OL.

The Barbre-for-Herremans switch still leaves the Eagles with three starting offensive linemen over 30, the same as last season, when injuries played havoc. Probably an even bigger concern than relying on Barbre to start is the continuing drama around left guard Evan Mathis. Mathis, who turns 34 in November, has spent the last two offseasons looking for a trade to a team that will rework his contract, which is scheduled to pay him $5.5 million this season and $6 million in 2016.

Last year, Mathis dropped the issue when it was time to work, and it was nearly forgotten during the season. But right now he is sitting out OTAs, and coach Chip Kelly didn't sound certain that Mathis will show up and play, when Kelly spoke with reporters after the draft.