Eagles’ options to replace injured Lane Johnson, Avonte Maddox

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

Add two more to the list from Saturday’s game in Dallas. Both right tackle Lane Johnson and nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox will miss some time, head coach Nick Sirianni confirmed on Monday afternoon.

Johnson reportedly tore 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 they still have to earn that No. 1 seed in the NFC. One win over their last two games will do it.

Here’s a look at their options to replace these two important 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 played Driscoll in his place. Driscoll played the final 11 snaps against the Cowboys and according to ProFootballFocus, he gave up one rush.

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

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

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

The next week, Jordan Mailata returned from an injury and the Eagles kicked Driscoll inside to right guard, where he started the next eight games before suffering an injury of his own. Driscoll is solid.

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

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

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

After that first game without Johnson last season, the Eagles changed things up for the next two games they were without him. They plugged Mailata in 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.

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

Mailata was fine at right tackle last year but did give up a sack to Haason Reddick when they played the Panthers. You might remember that when Reddick signed in Philly as a free agent, Mailata made sure to tell him that he was on the right side when the two faced each other and he’s more comfortable on the left.

If the Eagles think there’s a chance Johnson might miss some of the playoffs — they’re hopeful he’ll be back — this option might be more appealing. They could get extended practice reps in this configuration, which might be better for the long haul.

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

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

3. Play Dillard at right tackle

The last option doesn’t seem extremely likely. It was way back in 2019 when the Eagles tried to play Dillard at right tackle and it was a disaster. He lasted just one half against the Seahawks in that attempt before he was pulled. Since then, Dillard has played exclusively on the left side and has been the Eagles’ backup left tackle and left guard this season.

Most teams have a backup swing tackle who can play on either side but the Eagles have a unique setup. Dillard has been their backup LT/LG, while Driscoll has been their backup RT/RG this year.

In an ideal world, Dillard would have the versatility to plug-and-play at right tackle but it doesn’t seem like this is a real option:

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

“Obviously, everything will be on the table, whatever we feel like is best for us,” Sirianni said on Monday. “I love the fact 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 at nickel

After Maddox hurt his toe against the Cowboys, backup nickel cornerback Josiah Scott played the rest of the game in his place and struggled. Scott was picked on a bit by the Cowboys and CeeDee Lamb. ProFootballFocus charged Scott with 3 catches for 76 yards.

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

While it’s admittedly an imperfect way to judge a player, Scott ranks as PFF’s 107th-ranked cornerback in the NFL out of 121. Maddox is ranked 24th. This is a huge drop-off with the playoffs looming.

2. Play CJGJ at nickel, Reed Blankenship at safety

Eagles safety CJ Gardner-Johnson has now missed four games with a lacerated kidney he suffered in the first half against the Packers, but he is eligible to return off IR this week. Of course, there’s no guarantee that happens.

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

“Just because he’s eligible to return doesn’t mean he will, even though I know he’ll want to. Again, all the guys will want to, so we’ll see. That will be something that we’re just waiting for some results back when he does get those tests.”

But if Gardner-Johnson is able to return this week or sometime soon, the Eagles will have the option to play him at safety in base downs and move him to the nickel spot in sub packages. Then Blankenship would be on the field as a safety. Remember, in his first three years in the NFL, Gardner-Johnson was one of the best nickel corners in the NFL. This season, he had six interceptions while learning to play safety on the fly.

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

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

Why would the Eagles be willing to move multiple pieces this time around? Well, it might come down to them feeling more comfortable playing Blankenship at safety than playing Scott at nickel corner. Blankenship has played really well for an undrafted rookie this season and if CJGJ is going to slide up to play nickel, the Eagles will need a safety they trust to replace him.

3. Other options

Those listed above are the most likely to replace Maddox but there are others. If the Eagles would rather trust a veteran at the safety spot instead of Blankenship, they have Anthony Harris on their practice squad. He was a full-time starter for the Eagles in 2021 and while his play was unspectacular, he is at least a veteran who knows the scheme inside and out.

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

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