Welcome to the Matt Pryor Era.
Doug Pederson on Tuesday would not confirm or deny a published report that Jason Peters is refusing to play left tackle without a contract restructure but did strongly state that Peters will not be moving to left tackle, where he’s earned nine Pro Bowls.
Pederson said, “I don’t know where some of these reports are coming from.” But he did not deny them.
And he could not have been clearer: “We’re not moving him to left tackle.”
Pederson also indicated that Pryor - a 2019 6th-round pick who’s never started a regular-season game - would be the Eagles’ opening-day left tackle.
“Matt Pryor is a guy that once he gets all the work during the week is a solid guard or tackle, he’s proven that in the past for us,” Pederson said. “And he’ll settle in over there at the left side and we’ll be fine.”
Pryor finished the first Seattle game last year and started the second Seattle game at right guard. He's played 108 career snaps, all at right guard.
Tuesday afternoon was Pederson’s first media availability since the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane reported that Peters told the Eagles he wouldn’t play left tackle without a raise.
The Eagles re-signed Peters last month to play right guard after Brandon Brooks’ Achilles injury, but left tackle opened up when Andre Dillard suffered a season-ending of his own.
Why not move J.P. to the position where he made the NFL’s all-decade team and is a likely Hall of Famer?
“Jason Peters for us has done an outstanding job at right guard,” Pederson said. “He’s comfortable at right guard, we have some options at left tackle that we’re working through over there.”
This is a very difficult spot for Pederson. He isn’t involved in contract talks with players, but he’s the one who has to answer these questions.
The fact that Peters is remaining at right guard - where he’s never played - and Pryor continues to take 1st-team reps at left tackle - where he’s never played - creates a precarious situation for the Eagles’ offensive line with opening day 12 days away.
Asked whether it undermines Pederson’s authority when a player refuses to play a specific position, Pederson said:
“It doesn’t undermine anything. Jason has really embraced a new role for him, he’s done it well, he’s playing at a high level in what we’ve asked him to do there and he’s comfortable. So as you guys know, it’s hard to disrupt too many positions with that offensive line, and we’ve got a few more days here before we really get into regular-season week to find out who that left tackle will be, but we’ve got some options over there.”
Asked whether he’s confident Peters would move to left tackle if the coaches asked him to, Pederson paused and then declined to answer.
“To me that would be a private conversation, one between me and Jason, and I probably wouldn’t reveal that to you guys," he said.
“He’s come in here and done a great job for us at right guard, he’s solidified that right guard, he’s worked well with Lane when Lane’s been out there, he’s working great with Kelce, Kelce has a comfort level there with him,” Pederson said of Peters. “The thing is if we end up moving too many spots, especially this late in camp, it can disrupt some timing up front. Those guys need to be in sync, so for us to go out and put our best five up there that’s the plan, that’s where we’re going, that’s where we’re headed, and we’re going to get them all ready to play. “
For the record, Peters and Johnson haven’t practiced together since Aug. 21 and have had only four days of practice together.
As for Pryor, he got most of the 1st-team reps at left tackle during Sunday’s scrimmage at the Linc and got beat for numerous sacks by Josh Sweat, one of the Eagles’ backup edge rushers.
Pederson said that doesn’t worry him.
“I don’t make too much of it,” he said. “Pryor has been working right guard and right tackle. I believe this might have been the first time that he’s really had extensive left tackle work without any preparation or practice time so it’s a great example of why you don’t just move guys around at the spur of the moment.”
Pederson said Jordan Mailata, who’s never taken a regular-season snap, will also get some work at left tackle during the Eagles’ Tuesday afternoon practice.
What about moving Johnson from right tackle to left tackle and going with Pryor or Mailata at right tackle, which is a lower-leverage spot?
“If you did that, who are you putting at right tackle?" he said. "You can put (Jack) Driscoll over there, you can put Pryor over there, you can put Mailata over there. There are so many moving parts. That’s why it’s so important for us as a team moving forward that we keep guys in their spots, work at their spots and we figure out one position as opposed to figuring out two or three. We’ve had these conversations in the past with Lane, but Lane’s our right tackle and he’s comfortable there.”