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Old 06-11-2019, 02:59 PM   #1
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Default It doesn't sound like the Eagles are counting on Brooks being back

Eagles’ Jeff Stoutland explains why Halapoulivaati Vaitai is a good fit for right guard

By Mike Kaye | NJ Advance Media for

PHILADELPHIA — While he has never been a full-time starter, Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been a key role player for the Philadelphia Eagles throughout his four-year tenure with the team.

The 2016 fifth-round pick started six games at right tackle as a rookie while Pro Bowl lineman Lane Johnson served a suspension. In 2017, Vaitai served as the starting left tackle during the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII run after the team lost Jason Peters to a season-ending ACL injury in Week 7.

Last season, Vaitai didn’t play often, but served as a key insurance policy as the team’s swing tackle.

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This offseason, Vaitai is increasing his value even further. The veteran lineman is working as the Eagles’ first-team right guard, as starter Brandon Brooks recovers from offseason Achilles surgery.

“If you can play more than one position, it’s really good,” Vaitai said last week. “If something were to happen, like what happened to Jason Peters [in 2017], if you have guys that can play guard and tackle, it’s really good.”

Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has been pleased with Vaitai’s results so far. While the organized team activity workouts weren’t very physical, Vaitai was able to show off his athleticism at the position during drills.

“Really good,” Stoutland said of Vaitai’s progress in OTAs. “It’s the time of year where you do this kind of stuff. Like Isaac [Seumalo] had done this before and showed what great value he had to the organization by playing multiple positions. V has never really done this and it was the time to do it. He’s done a great job because it really is a different position.”

Vaitai has been receiving advice from Seumalo and former starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski throughout the offseason program. The move from tackle to guard features some technique changes, as the approach is a lot more combative inside.

“I know that inside is more aggressive, you’ve got to punch faster,” Vaitai said. “Whereas tackle, you get off the ball and be patient.”

Vaitai’s development at guard could be very important to the Eagles’ early success this season. If Brooks is forced to start the campaign on the physically unable to perform list, Vaitai may need to take on the starting role for the foreseeable future.

Stoutland thinks Vaitai could excel in the right guard role if needed. He fits the mold at the position.

“He’s a very powerful man,” Stoutland said. “He’s very powerful with his hands and he’s very explosive and to play that position, you have to have that ‘Brandon Brooks mentality’. You have to be able to move those big interior players. The job description for the guard [position] is to have that characteristic.”
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