PHILADELPHIA -- Eaglescoach Doug Pederson has named Lane Johnson the starter at right tackle for Thursday night's game against the New York Giants.
Johnson was dealt a 10-game suspension in October for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy for a second time.He returned to the team's practice facility Monday after serving the suspension in his home state of Oklahoma.
Pederson has not seen or talked to Johnson in 10 weeks. He responded "I don't know" when asked about Johnson's weight and conditioning.
The way Pederson sees it, he has no choice but to start him.
"I know that Isaac [Seumalo] is hurt and Big V [Halapoulivaati Vaitai] is coming off a knee injury and Allen Barbre is injured, so what else do I have left?" he said. "Lane, you're the guy. I don't care if you're 'x' weight, you've got to play."
The Eagles went 2-8 in Johnson's absence, compared to 3-1 over the first four games when he was in the lineup. Instability along the front as a result of his suspension proved to be a major storyline of the 2016 season. On Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles were playing with their fifth different right tackle this season in rookie interior lineman Seumalo.
The third-round pick out of Oregon State suffered a high ankle sprain in the game. He joins the ranks of the injured along with Barbre (hamstring) and Vaitai (MCL). While Pederson made it sound as if all three could be available for the Giants game, it's a pretty banged-up group.
Starting Johnson on a short week after a 10-week layoff is far from ideal, but it's a move out of necessity in Pederson's view.
"He's an athlete, and I'm sure he worked out and kept himself in shape and stayed fit -- he was around 318, 319 when he left us -- so I expect to see him at about that weight, I guess later today," said Pederson. "And with the injury situation, you've gotta go."
In other injury news, running back Darren Sproles has cleared concussion protocol and is expected to play against New York. Fellow back Kenjon Barner has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Eagles OT Lane Johnson starting vs. Giants after 10-game PED ban