But so far, at least according to his coaches and teammates, Barbre has filled in wonderfully. The team has high expectations for him and don’t believe they’ll miss Mathis one bit.
In seven seasons, Barbre has appeared in 48 games while starting just eight. Seven of those starts came six years ago, when he was the top right tackle for the Green Bay Packers in 2009. He started one game at right tackle for the Eagles in 2014, but the move inside to guard could potentially revitalize his NFL career.
Barbre is slated to be the Eagles’ left guard in place of Mathis. He has been practicing exclusively at the position in Mathis’ absence and believes he’s becoming more comfortable in the role.
"I worked at right guard a lot last year, so I got comfortable there too, but left side is natural to me. I've done it for a long time," Barbre said. "It is nice though just to know you can work with one group of guys and know you can get used to working with JP (Jason Peters) and (Jason) Kelce."
But Barbre has big shoes to fill, whether anyone in Philadelphia is willing to admit it or not. Mathis wasn’t some bum slouch with no business starting. He was Pro Football Focus’ best guard from 2011-2013 and finished second in 2014 despite missing seven games due to injury.
The Eagles are planning to be more dependent on their offensive line, even despite the departure of two veteran guards. They have high hopes for a running game that has been one of the league’s best over the last two seasons, with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews expected to be even more productive than LeSean McCoy had been.
That’s a tall task for a restructured line that currently includes a 30-year-old swingman who has never really been a starter in the NFL. But despite the changes, Barbre is confident there won’t be much hiccup in Philadelphia.
"I don't feel like we'll do anything different, it's all the same," he said. "We're not changing plays just because Evan's not here."
With minimal depth behind him, the Eagles are choosing to live or die on Barbre’s success on the left side. If he fails, the city could have Kelly’s head. But if he thrives, the Eagles coach will look like a genius for cutting ties with his disgruntled star guard in favor of a cheaper, underrated talent who is “all in” on this new culture in Philadelphia.
Lou Musto is the publisher for WarNest.com. You can follow on Twitter @LouisMusto.