Eagles’ offensive line problems open the door for Isaac Seumalo to start again
Isaac Seumalo, who was handed the Eagles' starting left guard job last year but couldn't keep it, is getting another chance. He is expected to replace Stefen Wisniewski at left guard Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
If it seems like it wasn't that long ago that the Eagles' offensive line was being hailed as one of the two or three best units in the NFL, well, it's because it wasn't.
But the fall from grace in sports can be blink-of-an-eye quick, even for Super Bowl champions.
After giving up nine sacks the last two games, the folks charged with keeping Carson Wentz in working order find themselves on the hot seat heading into Sunday's important game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Linc.
The Tennessee Titans had four sacks and a dozen knockdowns of Wentz last week in a 26-23 overtime win over the Eagles. The week before that, the Indianapolis Colts sacked Wentz five times in a 20-16 Eagles win.
It's the first time the Eagles have given up four or more sacks in back-to-back games since 2010.
"The reality is we have high expectations because we performed well in the past," center Jason Kelce said. "We had a great season last year. In order to do that, we know the attention to detail has to be on point. And we know we all have to be on the same page. The communication has to be there. The technique has to be there. And it's really not far off."
Maybe not. But with a 2-2 record and a home game against the Vikings that might not be must-win but certainly is important as Week 5 games get, coach Doug Pederson is getting a little antsy.
According to multiple reports, he plans to bench left guard Stefen Wisniewski Sunday and replace him with Isaac Seumalo.
Seumalo, the Eagles' 2016 third-round pick, was handed the starting left-guard job before the 2017 season but struggled mightily in the first two games and was quickly benched.
He was replaced first by Chance Warmack, then by Wisniewski, an eight-year veteran with 98 career starts who played the best football of his career during the Eagles' run to the Super Bowl.
Wisniewski hasn't played as well this year as he did last year, but neither has the rest of the offensive line.
"I'm not going to stand up here and [say] … I'll just say this, we're constantly evaluating everybody," Pederson said Friday.
"This week, we've rotated some guys around. Isaac has played some left guard. He's played some center. We haven't made any changes as of yet."
Seumalo made a brief appearance in the locker room Friday during media availability but declined to talk to reporters. Wisniewski wasn't in the locker room at all during the team's 45-minute media availability.
Seumalo has played just 13 offensive snaps in the first four games, all of them as the third tight end in "13" personnel groupings. Both Pederson and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland are high on Seumalo, who was used almost exclusively at center during training camp and the preseason.
"You see what Isaac's done," Pederson said. "He's in his third year. His confidence level is extremely high right now. He's healthy. He's playing physical. He had a really good training camp and offseason.
"There are a lot of positives going for Isaac right now. We're all comfortable with him. Stout is comfortable with him. We like his progress and [we'll] see what happens."
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The 6-4, 303-pound Seumalo is one of the Eagles' strongest offensive linemen.
"Our strength staff has done an unbelievable job with him," Stoutland said a few weeks ago. "That really is the truth. That's where it's coming from. You can see it on the field."
The Eagles have struggled with stunts and blitzes the last two games. Not all of the blame rests with the offensive line, but enough of it.
"It was a little bit of everything last week," said NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, a former offensive lineman who played in the league for 11 years. "It was good scheming by Tennessee. It was a bad job by the Eagles of picking up some stunts.
"And sometimes, they just got beat. [Titans defensive tackle] Jurrell Casey beat Wisniewski once. He beat [left tackle Jason] Peters. He was a handful inside and has been against everybody he's played."
Kelce, who was a first-team All-Pro selection last season, has been playing with a brace on his left knee since the start of the season. It's the first time he's used one since 2013, the year after he missed 14 games with ACL and MCL tears in his right knee.
He hasn't appeared on the team's injury report and Pederson insisted that, despite the presence of the brace, there is nothing wrong with Kelce's knee. But he admitted he's been giving Kelce some breaks in practice.
"He's a veteran player who does a lot for us," he said. "Just want to make sure that he's 100 percent. He practices full every day, but [we] just give him a play [off] here and there."
Given the problems the Eagles have had the last couple of weeks with stunts and blitzes, it's likely that the Vikings will test them early with the same strategy.
"[Vikings coach Mike] Zimmer sees the issues they're having," Baldinger said. "I'm sure he's going to test it right away. They're going to see if the backs can get to the right spot. They know the Eagles like to slide-protect on bootlegs. So I'm sure they'll attack the backside.
"They have most of the same pressures that Tennessee beat them on."
This certainly is a fixable situation, particularly the longer they play with Wentz.
"The Eagles certainly are capable of straightening it out," Baldinger said. "But they need to do it. The communication has got to get better. They've got to get better at some of these twist-stunts that they got beat on last week. There's just been too much penetration."
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