Eagle Eye: Eagles depth being tested
Allen Barbre played 51 of the Eagles' 61 offensive snaps in their win over the Packers. (USA Today Images)
It happened in Tampa. Jason Peters got dinged and had to leave the field. One play later? Nick Foles touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson.
It happened again two weeks ago in Oakland. Peters gets banged up, is helped to the sideline and … boom, 25-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown.
Happened again Sunday in Green Bay. Peters leaves the field after just 17 plays in a scoreless game? One play later … 55-yard Jackson touchdown.
How do the Eagles keep losing their All-Pro left tackle to injuries and winning games?
Meet Allen Barbre. Left tackle.
“It’s important that when I go out there and have to play, there’s no drop-off,” Barbre said. “Jason’s a great player, and he’s hard to replace. If I can go out there and contribute, that’s awesome.”
Barbre is one of the more improbable stories on this Eagles roster.
Last year, the Eagles tried to replace Peters with Demetress Bell and King Dunlap when Peters missed the entire season after two Achilles surgeries.
That was a disaster.
This year, Peters has managed to start every game, but he hasn’t been himself. He’s been plagued by a variety of injuries -- dislocated finger, a head injury, a pectoral, shoulder, quad -- and has missed time in four of the last six games.
Barbre played four snaps in the first Giants game, nine in Tampa, 17 in Oakland, then 51 of 61 Sunday in Green Bay.
Each time, the offense hasn’t skipped a beat.
“I always prepare as if I’m going to be playing, so if I do have to go in there, I’m always ready,” Barbre said. “You have to always be ready to go.”
At 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Barbre looks more like a guard than a tackle. He was originally the Packers’ fourth-round pick in 2007 and has made a bunch of NFL stops -- Green Bay, Miami and Seattle before signing a futures contract with the Eagles two weeks after the 2012 season ended, while the Eagles were in between Andy Reid and Chip Kelly.
His two-year deal was worth $1.46 million with a $10,000 signing bonus -- rare for a futures player.
“We gave him a signing bonus too because we really wanted to get him in here,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Monday night on his 94 WIP radio show. “We couldn’t have been more excited to get Allen in.”
Safe to say Barbre played a lot better against the Packers than for the Packers, who released him before the 2010 season.
He was a force Sunday, helping the offensive line to its best performance of the year in a 27-13 win at Lambeau. The Eagles netted 415 yards against the Packers, 204 on the ground, 211 in the air.
“I thought he did a really, really good job in his first extended playing time,” Kelly said. “Was really solid in protection, kind of helped us get to the edge a lot when we were running to the left. So really happy with him.”
Barbre, 29, is the ultimate journeyman. He’s been released four times in his career, but the Eagles are thrilled to finally have a legit backup to Peters.
“He reminded us a lot of Evan Mathis when we got him, a guy who had bounced around,” Roseman said. “But you talk about the skill set, what he had in his body: Extremely athletic, knew how to use his long arms, knows how to punch, very heavy-handed, can play inside, can play outside. He was one of those guys who the more you saw him … [you thought] this guy’s got something to him.”
Mainly, strength and power.
“He's a really, really strong football player,” Kelly said. “You know, he's got pop. He's got really heavy hands, as [offensive line coach Jeff] Stoutland likes to say. He's really good at technique.”
The Eagles had Barbre at guard during the preseason, but when Dennis Kelly -- who started much of last year at right tackle -- needed back surgery and the coaches didn’t think promising undrafted rookie Matt Tobin was ready, they swung Barbre out to tackle.
“I think having his ability to be both a swing guard and tackle for us, and really our first guy off the bench for us, was a huge plus,” Kelly said.
“He's a real strong football player, probably just not as tall as some of the left tackles out there, but really happy with how he played.”
If you watch the Eagles’ 9½-minute drive to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, a lot of those plays went Barbre’s way.
But Roseman said the one play that really sticks out was a block he made on All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews.
“It was unbelievable,” Roseman said. “He’s got Clay coming off the edge, and he uses those long arms and those heavy hands and he just shocks him, and you just went, ‘Wow.’
“That was a ‘wow’ kind of play from an offensive lineman, and to see Allen and to see that kind of effort, you’re proud of him.”
Peters’ status for Sunday against the Redskins is unknown. He’s pretty banged up and there’s a chance Barbre would make his first start since 2009 if Peters can't go.
Honestly, Peters hasn’t been himself this year anyway. Whether it’s all the injuries he’s suffered along the way or the lingering effect of the Achilles tears or both, who knows.
The reality is that the offense has moved just as efficiently -- if not a little more efficiently -- with Barbre at left tackle than Peters.
Sunday was Barbre’s first trip back to Lambeau since the Packers released him, and he didn’t try to hide the satisfaction in helping the offensive line put together a dominating performance in a win over the team that gave up on him.
“It was pretty sweet, most definitely,” he said. “It was good to come back and be able to play well. It’s been a few years since I was here, but I still know a few of the guys.
“It was definitely fun playing here, but I’m happy with where I am now.”