The Eagles were on the brink of disaster in the second quarter of their 34-17 win against the Jaguars Sunday.
Already missing suspended Lane Johnson on the offensive line, the Birds suffered two injuries up front, with Evan Mathis hobbling to the locker room towards the end of the second frame, and Johnson’s backup Allen Barbre following suit not much later.
So David Molk and Andrew Gardner filled in. And they filled in admirably.
“I thought they did a good job,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “That is a fear when you have a 46 man roster. I think everybody has two people. We had two offensive linemen up, Molk and Gardner. When [Barbre] went down and [Mathis] went down, obviously you’ve got to play with those guys.”
The Eagles didn’t have an eighth offensive lineman in uniform. Had another big man gotten hurt, it would likely have been up to tight end Brent Celek to fill in, out of position and against the Jaguars defensive front. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
Both of the Eagles backups, Gardner and Molk, worked out of position in practice. But they were able to adjust and show versatility.
“Most of Gardner’s practice time has been on the left side,” Kelly said, “but we’ve got enough reps for him on the right side and felt good about him. Molk almost extensively since Julian [Vandervelde] went down has been at center so, to have him thrown in there at guard obviously, it was not the way you wanted it, but I thought those guys went out there and competed.”
After a lackluster first half that saw the Eagles fall way behind, trailing by 17 after 30 minutes, the makeshift offensive line pulled together to help the offense gain 291 yards in the second half. And more importantly, 34 points and a win.
“I think our backups on the offensive line are tremendous,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “If you looked at the preseason, they did a great job for us then. They have played well since they have been here and they did a nice job today.”
Both injured Eagles will received MRI’s and detailed diagnoses Monday, and through the week. But the tough test they survived Sunday will, if nothing else, fuel an offensive line that started all 17 games together in 2013 to success as the season continues.
“There were a lot of positives and negatives to take away from today,” Kelce said. “Anytime you lose two starting offensive lineman in a game, that is a scary thing. But, the guys that came in, kudos to them, they played a great game.”