It’s Official: No ‘Lane’ Change for Johnson
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — With Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence and Khalil Mack left on the schedule the Eagles made the decision to keep Lane Johnson at right tackle in the wake of Jason Peters' season-ending ACL tear.
That means second-year player Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start at left tackle on Sunday against the winless San Francisco 49ers, something Doug Pederson confirmed at his Friday press conference.
"We had conversations earlier in the week — myself, Frank [offensive coordinator Frank Reich], Stout [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland]. We want to do what’s best for that group and for us offensively,” Pederson said. “For me, right now, Lane Johnson is playing really well on the right side. We didn’t want to disrupt two positions, so it made sense to keep V [Vaitai] on the left side.”
Traditionally the best past rushers in the NFL come from the weak side, something that has made left tackle one of the more important and highest-paid positions in the NFL but things have started to change a bit in the modern era and some of the best quarterback hunters line up on the left side of the defense, something Johnson has already seen this season with players like Ryan Kerrigan, Justin Houston, and Jason Pierre-Paul.
That trend will continue when Miller, perhaps the best of them all, arrives at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 9.
“Keeping these guys detailed and honed in on their responsibilities is the key,” Pederson said.
Johnson hinted that he was staying put on Wednesday and it became obvious a day later when he worked in individual drills at his familiar right tackle spot.
“I haven’t had any reps (at left tackle) not to say I couldn’t do it," Johnson explained. "I’ve done it before but the main thing is just keeping it consistent with it. When the time is right I’ll move over there."
Meanwhile, cornerback Ronald Darby was listed as questionable for Sunday after again practicing on a limited basis with Pederson confirming the main hurdle for him is getting back into “football shape” after suffering a dislocated ankle in the season opener against Washington.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen