Eagles options to replace injured Lane Johnson and Avonte Maddox

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The Eagles have been healthy for most of the 2022 season, but the injuries are starting to pile up.

Add two more to the roster for Saturday’s game in Dallas. Both right winger Lane Johnson and cornerback Avonte Maddox will miss some time, coach Nick Sirianni confirmed Monday afternoon.

Johnson reportedly ruptured a tendon in his abdomen and Maddox is out indefinitely with a toe injury.

With two games left in the regular season, the Eagles are gearing up for the playoffs, but have yet to clinch first place in the NFC. A win in the last two games will suffice.

Here’s a look at your options for replacing these two key players:

Replacing Lane Johnson

1. Start Jack Driscoll at right tackle

When Johnson had to leave the Cowboys’ game in the second half, the Eagles dropped Driscoll in his place. Driscoll played the final 11 snaps against the Cowboys and, according to ProFootballFocus, gave up in a hurry.

Driscoll, 25, is in his third season in the NFL and already earned the fourth-round pick the Eagles used to select him in 2020 out of Auburn.

In his NFL career, Driscoll played guard and tackle and played in 35 games with 14 starts. Here’s how those 14 matches break down: 8 in RG, 5 in RT, 1 in LT. Driscoll only started one game this season and that was at left tackle against the Cardinals. Of his five career starts at right tackle, one came last season and four as a rookie in 2020.

Driscoll’s only start at right tackle last year was against the Chiefs. That was the first game Johnson missed to deal with his mental health and Driscoll found out shortly before the game that he was starting. In that game, he gave up five pressures on 61 pass-blocking snaps.

The following week, Jordan Mailata returned from injury and the Eagles kicked Driscoll to inside right guard, where he started the next eight games before going down with an injury. Driscoll is solid.

If Driscoll started in Johnson’s place, this is the line the Eagles would use:

LT: Jordan Mailata
LG: Landon Dickerson
C: Jason Kelce
ID: Isaac Seumalo
RT: Jack Driscoll

two. Move Mailata to right tackle, Andre Dillard to left tackle

After that first game without Johnson last season, the Eagles turned things around for the next two games without him. They fielded Mailata at right tackle and replaced him at left tackle with Dillard. Both Mailata and Dillard are better on the left side, but Mailata is a better option on the right side.

The problem with this option: while it might give the Eagles their best combination of five forwards, it theoretically weakens the line at two different points. This is something OL coach Jeff Stoutland has traditionally tried to avoid.

Mailata was good at right tackle last year but gave up a sack to Haason Reddick when they played the Panthers. You may recall that when Reddick signed to Philly as a free agent, Mailata made a point of telling him that he was on the right side when the two faced each other and that he is more comfortable on the left.

If the Eagles think there’s a chance Johnson will miss out on some of the playoffs — they expect him to come back — that option might be more attractive. They can get extended practice reps on this setting, which might be better in the long run.

If this is the option, here’s how it would look:

LT: Andre Dillard
LG: Landon Dickerson
C: Jason Kelce
ID: Isaac Seumalo
RT: Jordan Mailata

3. Play Dillard at right tackle

The last option does not seem extremely likely. It was 2019 when the Eagles tried to play Dillard at right tackle and it was a disaster. He only lasted one time against the Seahawks on that drive before being pulled. Since then, Dillard has played exclusively left tackle and was the Eagles’ backup left tackle and left guard this season.

Most teams have a backup swing tackle that can play either side, but the Eagles have a unique setup. Dillard was his LT/LG backup, while Driscoll was his RT/RG backup this year.

In an ideal world, Dillard would have plug-and-play versatility on the right offense, but it doesn’t seem like a real option:

LT: Jordan Mailata
LG: Landon Dickerson
C: Jason Kelce
ID: Isaac Seumalo
RT: André Dillard

“Obviously everything will be on the table, whatever we think is best for us,” Sirianni said on Monday. “I love that Jordan has some versatility. I love the fact that Andre and Jack are really good backups. We have a lot of faith in them to go out there and be able to do their job.”

Replacing Avonte Maddox

1. Play Josiah Scott on the nickel

After Maddox injured his toe against the Cowboys, Nickel backup cornerback Josiah Scott played the rest of the game in his place and struggled. Scott was picked slightly by the Cowboys and CeeDee Lamb. ProFootballFocus carried Scott with 3 catches for 76 yards.

This is Maddox’s third significant injury this season, and on each of the previous two occasions, the Eagles have simply dropped Scott into the lineup. In the six games Maddox has missed this year, Scott has averaged 47.8 snaps per game.

While admittedly an imperfect way to judge a player, Scott is ranked the 107th PFF cornerback in the NFL out of 121. Maddox is ranked 24th. This is a big drop with the playoffs looming.

two. Play CJGJ at nickel, Reed Blankenship at safety

Eagles safety CJ Gardner-Johnson has already missed four games with a torn kidney he suffered in the first half against the Packers, but is eligible to return from IR this week. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will happen.

“It will always be about where he is, because that’s something you don’t play around with,” Sirianni said. “So when he’s healthy, he will. We’ll find out more when he does some of these tests.

“Just because he is eligible to return doesn’t mean he will, although I know he will want to. Again, all the guys will want it, so we’ll see. That will be something we are just waiting for some results when he does the tests.”

But if Gardner-Johnson can return this week or soon, the Eagles will have the option to play him to safety on base downs and move him to nickel point on subpacks. Then Blankenship would be on the field as security. Remember, in his first three years in the NFL, Gardner-Johnson was one of the best nickel corners in the NFL. This season, he’s had six interceptions while learning to play it safe on the fly.

“Obviously he has a lot of versatility,” said Sirianni. “I think the same thing, you kind of asked when he got here, it was like, well, he didn’t play safety. Well, he showed that he can play it safe. Well, he hasn’t played nickel in over a year. Well, he can do that too.

“We will also take this one day at a time and cross that bridge when we get to it, when we know he is healthy and ready to go. Chauncey is very versatile and can do a lot of different things, and that’s obviously good for us.”

Why would the Eagles be willing to move multiple pieces this time around? Well, it could be that they are more comfortable playing Blankenship at safety than they are playing Scott in the nickel corner. Blankenship has played pretty well for an undrafted rookie this season and if CJGJ is going to slide into nickel, the Eagles will need a safety they trust to replace him.

3. Other options

The ones listed above are the ones most likely to replace Maddox, but there are others. If the Eagles would rather rely on a veteran at point safety over Blankenship, they have Anthony Harris on their practice squad. He was a full-time starter for the Eagles in 2021, and while his play wasn’t spectacular, he’s at least a veteran who knows the scheme inside and out.

They might even sign someone off the street. Old friend Cre’Von LeBlanc recently tweeted that he is healthy and ready for his next opportunity. He has been a solid nickel corner during his career.

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