PHILADELPHIA - Right- and left-handed players are very much a thing on NFL offensive lines.
Last season you heard Andre Dillard describe his ill-fated attempt at moving from left tackle to right tackle as writing with the opposite hand and earlier this week Jordan Mailata went a more colorful route describing a potential move the other way as wiping with your non-dominant hand.
Matt Pryor was also reduced to a right-handed player by offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland after a disastrous attempt to play LT back in training camp when Dillard went down with a torn biceps and Jason Peters was playing leverage games.
“I've coached players here in the past," said Stoutland earlier this season. "Al Barbre was a left-side player. When you moved him to the right side it was challenging for him from a balance standpoint. Some players are like that.”
Nate Herbig, just 22, is not one of those players.
Penciled in as an interior backup to start the season, the second-year pro out of Stanford got his first NFL start at right guard in the wake of Brandon Brooks’ Achilles’ injury and then Peters’ planned move inside being erased once Dillard went down at LT.
Herbig held his own and when Isaac Seumalo injured his knee against the Los Angeles Rams, Pryor finished the game at LG before the Eagles flopped with time to prepare to put Pryor back where he felt most comfortable and playing Herbig at LG.
When Pryor hit the COVID-19 list and Sua Opeta was pegged for his first start, Philadelphia wanted to keep the less-experienced Opeta comfortable at his more natural position at LG and shifted Herbig back to RG against the New York Giants.
Now Peters is back at LT and Pryor is back to handle RG so Herbig is set to Yo-Yo once again and play LG against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
When Herbig first moved from RG to LG, Stoutland addressed it:
“For Nate, it was not any issue at all,” the veteran coach said. “So, I could put guys in a better position to make it - 'no man is an island, you must draw your strength from others' - to be able to make that move with Nate, it was better for all of us."
And sometimes “better for all of us” is Herbig on the other side but one thing has been solidified for this banged-up Eagles offensive line. Herbig is playing one of the guard spots, at least until Seumalo and Brooks are both healthy and ready to go again which likely isn’t happening until 2021 for the latter.
“He's a smart kid,” coach Doug Pederson said Friday when discussing Herbig. “... he doesn't need a ton of work, going from right to left. I would say it’s pretty natural for him. There are some guys, though, that you've got to just say, ‘Hey, you're the left guard or maybe you're the right guard.' But this guy can play both. It’s not perfect but he plays it, I want to say easily, but it's never an easy position to play.”
Despite the constant upheaval for Herbig and the shuffling back and forth, he’s held his own, grading out at No. 38 of 75 offensive guards by ProFootballFocus.com and being remarkably consistent as both a run-blocker and in pass protection.
“He handles it well, and again, he's smart,” said Pederson. “He understands the information. He knows how to surface blocks being on the right side, being on the left side.
"As he came into the season, as you guys know, he was going to be a backup player for us, a role player, and a guy that could swing from left-to-right. That's how we were cross-training him prior to coming into this season.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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