Johnson Suspension Upheld
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles were informed that Lane Johnson's 10-game PED suspension was upheld by the NFL on Tuesday morning.
The penalty will begin this afternoon at 4:00 PM ET and run through Philadelphia’s Week 15 game against the Baltimore Ravens. He will be eligible to return to the Eagles’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 19 for the final two games and any potential playoff run.
The Eagles are not happy that Johnson put himself in this situation and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman issued a terse statement once the team was informed that the suspension was upheld.
“We’re very disappointed that Lane Johnson has been suspended 10 games,” Roseman said “His actions have affected the entire organization. We are all working under a clearly-defined set of rules and regulations set forth by the NFL in the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA.
“Moving forward, he has no choice but to hold himself accountable to Jeffrey Lurie, Coach Pederson and his staff, his teammates, and to the entire organization and our fans. When he returns from suspension, we will continue to support him and welcome him back to the team. We are moving on with our preparations for this week’s game in Washington.”
The original plan in Johnson's absence was for Allen Barbre to kick out from left guard to right tackle with veteran Stefen Wisniewski stepping in at LG. Another possibility has emerged, however, with Barbre staying at left guard where he is excelling and rookie fifth-round pick Halapoulivaati Vaitai taking over at RT.
“It’s something we’re considering,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson admitted last week. “We still have the original (plan) like we talked about before where we move Allen out and possibly put Wisniewski at LG, but I have to take in all the information. And it’s a situation where if we can tweak one spot and not two, it could be better for us that way.”
Pederson went one step further on Monday, saying that Vaitai would indeed being getting the first-team reps if Johnson wasn't available.
Through the Eagles impressive 3-1 start, Johnson has been one of the team’s best players, rated as the third-best offensive tackle in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com, behind only Tennessee’s Taylor Lewan and Washington’s Trent Williams. Barbre, meanwhile, has been almost as good, rating as the eighth best OG.
Upsetting the apple cart at two areas of strength instead of one clearly has Pederson concerned.
“Allen Barbre has been playing great at left guard,” the coach said. “If you don’t have to disrupt two positions and just do one, I think there’s some conversation there that we have to have.”
Vaitai spent most of training camp as the third-team right tackle behind Johnson and Dennis Kelly, who was eventually traded for receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Even after that move, however, “Big V” was kept deep on the depth chart when Barbre started taking reps at RT with the ones in case Johnson was suspended for Week 1.
Things have changed since the 53-man roster was put together, however.
“(Vaitai’s) been going against our starting defensive line for all of the regular season so far, so the work he has done in that capacity against a good defensive line gives us confidence,” Pederson explained. “If we had to (put the rookie at RT) we could do that and not bat an eye.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen