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Sielski: Versatile Barbre will play big role for Eagles

I get it. You're already gone. You're not stopping here. You glanced at that headline up there, whether on our website or in your morning broadsheet, and it said something like, "Eagles' Barbre showing his versatility with shift to RT," and now

I get it. You're already gone. You're not stopping here. You glanced at that headline up there, whether on our website or in your morning broadsheet, and it said something like, "Eagles' Barbre showing his versatility with shift to RT," and now you're peeling away like a rumrunner in a Mustang with the law on his tail. You're off to a story about Carson Wentz or Joel Embiid, or maybe you're happy to read a harrowing first-person essay about having to talk politics at the Thanksgiving table - anything to get away from 882 words about an offensive lineman. Allen Barbre, moving from left guard to right tackle . . . who cares? Zzzzz. See ya.

Like I said, I get it. But indulge me for a minute about Barbre, because in as much as any regular-season NFL game matters, Monday night's game against the Packers matters to the Eagles. They're 5-5, trailing both the Redskins and the Giants in the wild-card standings, and their record within the NFC - an important mark for postseason tiebreakers - is 3-5. If the Eagles don't win Monday, whatever realistic playoff hopes they have will go poof.

And the Eagles probably should win Monday, because the Packers have lost four straight games, and their pass defense has been lousy, and their offense is little more than Aaron Rodgers' playing a reasonable facsimile of street football. But if the Eagles are going to win, they will need Barbre to slide over to right tackle - in place of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who injured his knee last Sunday against the Seahawks - and do his part to keep Wentz clean. In a game that matters, Allen Barbre matters.

"You've just got to understand the two positions," said Barbre, 32, a fourth-round draft pick by the Packers in 2007, who has been a left guard, left tackle, and right tackle and played for four teams over his nine years in the NFL. "I've played both of them, so I kind of understand. Even the guy who plays one all the time sometimes gets out of whack, so you've just got to take it one play at a time.

"It's like riding a bike. Once you rode it, you rode it. The footwork is different. Instead of kicking back with your left foot, you're kicking with your right foot. There's a lot to it that people probably don't ever understand: balancing your footwork, balancing your stance, knowing you can't be leaning. You've got to reverse everything from the left to the right, all your technique."

Footwork. Fascinating, huh? Have you bailed for the comics page or that Flyers sidebar yet? You shouldn't, because this is the fascinating stuff. To me, this is the stuff that matters. We watch a guy like Barbre from a distance, and we see a 6-foot-4, 310-pound hulk, and we hear that he has to change positions, and we say: Big deal. How hard can that be? Just block the guy in front of you. And we forget a few things. We forget that it takes a hell of a lot more than size to be an NFL offensive lineman, let alone one who can last in the league for as long as Barbre has, and that not every NFL offensive lineman can do what the Eagles are asking Barbre to do. Think about it. Find a large man. Teach him to dance. Now, tell him to dance backward, to reverse the sequence of steps he just learned. Just make sure you're far away when he crashes to the floor.

So why can Barbre do it? One reason is that he was a terrific basketball player at East Newton High School in Granby, Mo., and the nimbleness that allowed him to thrive there helps him survive in the NFL.

"Allen could dunk a basketball," Rodgers said. "Super-athletic guy."

Is Barbre the Eagles' best lineman? Of course he isn't. But at least he's not tripping all over himself when the music starts.

"It's great to have guys like that," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, "even when you're putting your roster together through training camp or OTAs, all the way back to OTAs. You want to find those versatile offensive linemen, guards and centers, that can play those positions, and guards that can play tackles, or tackles that can play both sides of the ball. Allen is definitely one of those valuable players for us that can do both."

That's the frustrating irony for Barbre, though. He would prefer to settle at one spot along the line, to be so indispensable at his particular position - like, say, Jason Peters at left tackle - that the Eagles would never consider asking him to move.

"My versatility's helped me stay in the league, and it also sucks because they move me around," he said, then he shrugged in a sheepish way. "But that's just bull- talk. I can handle it. I'll just go play. . . . I feel like I'm the best left guard, but I definitely feel like, in this scenario we don't have another tackle. The way to put the best five on the field is to have me go to the right."

Which means it's the best way for the Eagles to win Monday. In a game that matters, Allen Barbre matters, no matter who cares or doesn't.