McMullen: The only ‘New Normal’ in Philadelphia is Regression Toward the Mean
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Swap out the names.
Last week it was Harold Landry in Nashville and this week it was Stephen Weatherly at Lincoln Financial Field.
The connection there isn't Landry currently plays in Music City and Weatherly once starred there at Vanderbilt University, it's Lane Johnson, the Eagles' All-Pro right tackle who has now allowed strip sacks to the young edge rushers in consecutive weeks, the latter of which resulted in an earth-shattering Linval Joseph touchdown in which the 330-pound nose tackle got to show off his impressive speed during a 23-21 Vikings win on Sunday.
Always a stand-up guy Johnson was the first Eagles player to speak at his locker despite his struggles contributing mightily to the organization's first two-game losing streak since the 2016 season.
"I'm not playing up to my standards," Johnson said.
A lot of Eagles aren't. With Johnson, it stands out a little more because he has been so dominant in the past.
In the Doug Pederson era the Eagles had been 20-4 with Johnson on the field until this hiccup
"I've had great success here. I've done great things here for a long time," Johnson said. "But when things aren't going right, I have to look at myself in the mirror, come back to work and try to be better."
Jason Peters, the future Hall of Fame left tackle, and Johnson's mentor offered the Texas native some sound advice after the game.
"I just told him to stay off Twitter, off the Internet," Peters said. "Stay locked in. You're a great player. Come to work every day and fix it."
According to Johnson, he was expecting a blitz off the edge and overextended while Weatherly, an underrated young end who has been playing in place of troubled Pro Bowl star Everson Griffen, ducked inside. The hit on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz dislodged the ball and into the hands of Joseph, who rumbled toward the south end zone.
"Over-kicking [on the slide step] I think. I thought the blitz was coming off the edge, I over-kicked it, the defensive end came under me and that's what happened," Johnson explained. "It's all angles. It's all fine lines. I'll take the blame for my play and pick it up."
Weatherly agreed with Johnson's break down of the play.
"I paired it up with speed off the ball," he said. "The tackle kind of over set and I was able to power inside and come down on the quarterback."
While others may be pointing fingers at Johnson, forget about the tight-knit group who grinds with him every day. Along with Peters, All-Pro center Jason Kelce also offered some shade to the right tackle.
"We ask more out of our offensive tackles than most teams around the NFL," Kelce said. "We leave those guys on an island every week."
History says the Eagles got the best of the New England Patriots on one day back in February. Duplicating what the Pats have done over nearly two decades is the tougher trick, however.
The so-called "Patriot Way" is the NFL's defined dynasty in the free-agency era, an almost incomprehensible level of consistency in a sport defined by inconsistency each and every week whether it's Buffalo going into Minnesota last month and coming out a winner as a 17 1/2-point underdog or those same Vikings returning to Lincoln Financial Field, the site of their 38-7 NFC Championship Game implosion, and carving out a win on Sunday despite their own spectacularly ineffective offensive line.
Doug Pederson's attempt to create a "new normal" is now just a catchphrase five weeks into the sequel of a Super Bowl LII championship with the Eagles underwater.
The major reason for that is career years regressing back toward the mean. Johnson isn't the only one but he's the most notable one.
"When the offensive line is playing good, we're going to win games, and when we're not, you'll see results like tonight," Johnson said. "It all starts with me. There are no excuses."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen