Justice, makeshift O-line get job done vs. ‘Skins


LANDOVER, Md. -- Todd Herremans was playing his third position in less than two months. Winston Justice was playing any position for the first time in nine months.

Somehow, it worked.

With Herremans starting at left tackle for the first time in six years and Justice an emergency starter at right tackle, the Eagles ground out 422 yards, including nearly 200 on the ground, in Sundays crucial 20-13 win over the Redskins Sunday at FedEx Field.

The rest of the O-line? Center Jason Kelce was making his sixth NFL start, Evan Mathis his sixth start as an Eagle and Danny Watkins his second NFL start.

Thats the definition of makeshift.

If you focus too much on, Im at a new position, and think about it too much and have a bad attitude about it, it can definitely be a problem, Mathis said. If I was moved to tackle and was like, Oh, woe is me, its definitely going to be a problem. But Todd and Winston both went in there and accepted the challenge and prepared and that gave us the best chance of success, and we got a win.

The Eagles ended their four-game losing streak Sunday (see story) and kept their playoff hopes alive with their first win since opening day in St. Louis.

And they did it with two offensive tackles who a few days ago never dreamed theyd be in the positions they were Sunday.

Justice, who missed the entire preseason as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, was forced into action after injuries to Jason Peters and King Dunlap. Those injuries forced the Eagles to move Herremans to left tackle and Justice from trainer Rick Burkholders rehab room right into the starting lineup.

For Justice, Sundays game was his first since he got pulled for Dunlap in the second half of the playoff loss to the Packers, his sore knee getting worse by the day.

I felt great, Justice said. It was like riding a bike. When I got out there, it was like I had always been out there.

Justice has been a reluctant interview since Dunlaps back spasms sidelined him mid-week. But he went out and played without complaining despite being less -- probably considerably less -- than 100 percent both mentally and physically.

Not only did Justice miss the entire preseason, not only is his knee still not totally healthy, but he played Sunday for the first time in a new system that he has barely had any practice time in.

I was proud of him, head coach Andy Reid said. Those two defensive ends are really good players, and Todd moving over and having to do that on the left side, thats not an easy thing to do, so Im just proud of how they all rallied, and they really didnt care who went in and played, they just played.

Justice said he spent extra time the past few days after practice with new offensive line coach Howard Mudd going over Mudds techniques, which are quite different than former O-line coach Juan Castillos.

Hes a smart player and he does a great job learning, Mathis said of Justice. No matter what, hes been working to get better. Hes really behind the 8-ball a little bit with the injuries, but hes been progressing and progressing, and Im proud of the way he played.

With Justice blocking Michael Vicks blind side, Vick was sacked just twice by a very active, very physical defense that ranked fourth in the NFL in sacks coming into the game. Vick also passed for 237 yards against the Skins seventh-ranked pass defense.

The Eagles also pounded out 192 more rushing yards against the NFLs sixth-ranked rush defense. The Skins have only allowed more twice since 2006.

I think Winston did an exceptional job today at right tackle, Herremans said. He went out there and grinded today, and Im just proud of all the guys up front. Weve been through a lot, and just us sticking together as a group. It was a good one today.

Since the end of the preseason, Herremans has moved from his usual spot at left guard to right tackle and now to left tackle.

Hes played extremely well at all three spots.

They can stick me wherever they want, I guess, Herremans said. Like a Band-Aid.

Peters will likely be available when the Eagles return from their bye to face the Cowboys in two weeks. That means Herremans will likely return to right tackle.

Im comfortable anywhere, he said. Its at the point now where I think I know the offense good enough and Howards technique, I dont think switching positions is really that big of a deal.

Its not an ideal situation, but Herremans said the O-line shuffle has a positive side. So far this year, eight different linemen have started at least one game. And that doesnt even include Jamaal Jackson, who spent most of the last decade as the Eagles starting center.

We go through this every year, the whole injury thing, and it gives us more depth, Herremans said. Guys who usually dont get reps get them and guys just shuffle around. It gives us more options of what to do down the line in case something bad happens.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

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