YOU MIGHT be watching the Eagles' 2017 starting offensive line Thursday night against the Giants.
Jason Peters will be at left tackle, Allen Barbre at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard and Lane Johnson at right tackle. That's the group the Eagles employed at the start of 2016, as well. The assumption then was that for 2017, Peters and his $11.2 million cap hit would be gone, Peters in retirement or playing elsewhere, Johnson would be the left tackle. Fingers were crossed that 2016 rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai could replace Johnson, and maybe 2016 rookie Isaac Seumalo could take over for Barbre at left guard.
The Seumalo-for-Barbre part remains possible, though Barbre is under contract at a modest $1.75 million next season, and has played well when healthy. The coaches really like Seumalo, a third-rounder who was the first guy drafted by the new regime after Carson Wentz.
Barbre turns 33 in June and could go back to being a backup, which automatically would give the Eagles a better alternative for an injured starting tackle or guard than they had this year. If Johnson stays healthy and unsuspended, Vaitai will make the group even deeper.
The year's biggest development, though, other than Johnson's 10-game suspension, is how dependable Peters has been, as he approaches his 35th birthday next month.
In 2015, Peters missed two games and checked out early from others, various injuries making him a shell of the man who had dominated defensive ends for a decade. But in Doug Pederson, Peters got a coach who understood the need to let an older player dictate his practice terms, to do whatever the player felt was necessary to keep him going. Every practice during warmups and stretching, a trainer hustles over to Peters, who lies down on the turf, as the trainer helps him twist into various positions, while teammates do calisthenics more or less in unison. Chip Kelly's tightly scripted practices didn't allow for a lot of individual stretch time.
Peters has enjoyed his healthiest season in years. Tuesday evening he was named to his ninth Pro Bowl, his seventh as an Eagle. Yes, he has false-started nine times, which is a lot. But he also has done very well protecting Wentz's blindside, while destroying people in the run game, as very much was the case last Sunday against Baltimore's No. 1-ranked run defense.
"I think he's very capable of (playing) another couple of seasons," Pederson said Wednesday. "He's really done a great job from a health standpoint and his weight and managing all of that.
"I think Stout (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) has done a good job of monitoring him in practice and not (requiring) the full complement of reps throughout the week . . . He feels fresh. He feels healthy. A Pro Bowl season. I look forward to working with him in the future."
Pederson said he hasn't talked to Peters about 2017, but will when the season is over. Peters said after the Dec. 11 Washington game that he thinks the team has a bright future with Wentz and he would like to stay on, as he chases the championship ring that has eluded him through five seasons in Buffalo and nine with the Eagles.
"I love him," Pederson said. "I want him on the team. I don't want him to go anywhere. I want him to be an Eagle for the rest of his career."
Pederson said it is "definitely a blessing, this late in the season, to have all five guys back."
He said Johnson "looks good. He's got a lot of energy, obviously," returning from a 10-game PED ban, with only one full practice and one partial practice before facing the Giants. "We always kid the guys that missed time, (who have) fresh legs. He's energetic and he's eager and he's ready to go. He had a good week of practice."
Pederson said the short week is "hard on everybody. But for (Johnson), sometimes it's better just to get back out on the field instead of having that long week of practice."
Players really don't like Thursday Night Football. Their bodies aren't even close to being ready to play again after Sunday. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said this week that "Thursday night games aren't in the interest of the players, but there's money in it" for the teams, and "we sign up to play 16 games."
This week is a little different, though. Because they're playing Thursday, the Eagles have Christmas weekend off. No practice Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. It's an extraordinary break, especially for a team that had a Week 4 bye. Many players are heading home for Christmas, for the first time in their NFL careers.
"I love it," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "This is like my second Christmas in seven years I'm really able to enjoy with the family. I appreciate this Thursday."
Preparing for a Thursday game, Graham said, is "all between the eyes - it's all mental."
Looks like the Giants' Pro Bowl corner, Janoris Jenkins (back) might be a gametime decision . . . Officially, the Eagles' Allen Barbre (hamstring), Jordan Matthews (ankle), Isaac Seumalo (ankle) and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) are all listed as questionable, but all are expected to be healthy enough to play . . . Jon Dorenbos, recovering from wrist surgery, said he was impressed with how replacement longsnapper Rick Lovato performed in Baltimore. "You couldn't have had a worse (weather) situation. I thought he was great," Dorenbos said.