Lane Johnson is Excited by Eagles’ Upgrades
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Could it really be as simple as Lane Johnson for the Philadelphia Eagles?
In the ultimate team game, the Eagles were 5-1 with their standout right tackle during the 2016 season and just 2-8 without him when he was on the sidelines, suspended for his second PED offense.
The context is lacking there, of course, and numbers are a lot like bikinis, they show a lot but they don't show everything.
It's unlikely that 5-1 would have turned into say 13-3 if Johnson was on the field full-time but it's not exactly going out on a limb to say that Philadelphia was a heck of a lot better with Johnson than without him.
"I'd say I'm a top-10 tackle in the league, right or left," Johnson said after the team's OTA practice Thursday. "I'm not trying to be arrogant or anything, but go watch the film."
The clarification there was because Johnson has been holding the fort down at left tackle while Jason Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, skipped the voluntary work.
"A lot of times they associate left tackle with having great feet and right tackle with being less athletic, but my deal is I've got one of the best ever, a Hall of Fame guy (Peters), playing the left, so I've got to bide my time until I'm over there," Johnson said.
Next week when the mandatory minicamp kicks off on Tuesday the now 35-year-old Peters will back and Johnson will return to his more familiar right side.
The back-and-forth isn't the optimal situation for Johnson but a needed step because the ultimate plan remains for Johnson to shift over to the left side when Peters is gone from the Eagles' locker room.
“I got drafted playing left tackle (at Oklahoma)," Johnson said. "It’s really just getting the reps. The deal was to get me the reps. JP isn’t here, so I get the reps, and whenever I do go to left tackle, it won’t be five or six years of not playing it then getting in. It’s money in the bank I’d say.”
So where is Johnson more comfortable? On the left side where he turned into the No. 4 overall pick with the Sooners or on the right where Johnson is in the conversation as one of the best players in the NFL at his position?
“As far as movement, I feel like I am a better pass blocker on the left," he explained. "You can ask a lot of guys, they’ll tell that they feel better at run blocking on the right but pass blocking on the left. The thing is to just get more and more reps until you are efficient with it. That’s how it was my rookie year at right tackle. I struggled, and as years passed, you get better.”
Johnson had some hiccups on Thursday against rookie pass rusher Derek Barnett but the veteran made sure to explain that things will be different when the pads come on and one of his main attributes (power) is back on the table.
"I got beat a few times today," Johnson said. "...wait until the pads come on."
As for the Eagles as a whole, Johnson is excited by what he sees and the upgraded talent around him.
"It's the best I've seen the team look since I've been here," he said. "Not talking out my ass, I feel like we're in a good spot."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen