It took a lot of folks by surprise a couple weeks ago when the Eagles decided to bench Stefen Wisniewski and replace him at left guard with Isaac Seumalo.
Meeting with reporters for the first time since the switch, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland explained on Monday that he knew Seumalo was ready to become a starter again based on what he saw in practice.
"I can't sit there and ignore something," Stoutland said. "I love all the players. Trust me. You don't even know how much I care about those guys. I tell them all, straight up, from Day 1: There's nobody here who's my cousin, brother-in-law. I said, 'If you're the most productive player, you'll find a spot on the field.'"
Seumalo is a former third-round pick from 2016. The Eagles thought enough of him to draft him and name him the starter at left guard at the start of last season without any competition, so it shouldn't be shocking that they went back to him so soon.
Wisniewski came in after Seumalo got benched early last season and after Chance Warmack proved he wasn't the answer. Wiz helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl and wasn't happy to lose his job a few weeks ago.
After getting benched this season, Wisniewski said he thought he was playing well and told reporters he had "some theories" about why he was benched, but he didn't want to divulge them.
Stoutland tried to make it clear that the only reason was performance:
Theories? I don't know. I just know this: I have an obligation here to Mr. (Jeff) Lurie and to the organization to make sure we have the best five players on the field. That's my job. And I tell every player that coming in. This kind of thing happened last year, when [Wisniewski] ended up becoming the starting left guard. As we go and as players develop and as players improve and get better, if they're sitting there and I know in my heart that that's one of the best five players, then he needs to be on the field.
We're now two games into Seumalo's stretch as the new (old) starter at left guard and it seems like Stoutland is happy about the decision. He mentioned that Seumalo didn't get off to a good start in the Vikings game, but since then, "he took off."
The Eagles have always valued Seumalo's versatility and athleticism. He is capable of playing all five spots on the line and even filled in at right tackle last week. The only place he hasn't played in the NFL is center, which many still believe is his most natural position.
When asked what changed for Seumalo a year after being benched, Stoutland immediately answered that it's Seumalo's power and strength. The third-year player has been working really hard to become a bigger, stronger offensive lineman, which obviously helps as a guard.
Seumalo is a pretty quiet guy and hasn't been available to reporters since the Eagles began starting him a couple games ago.
At least now we have a little more insight as to why the move was made.
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