“If you had your choice, who are you going to try to go against from a tackle perspective?” asked Chip Kelly. “Right now, you’ve got an All Pro lining up at left tackle [and at right tackle] a very talented but still a rookie. I think all rookies in this league are going to be tested no matter what position you play.”
Kelly has a point. Even if Lane Johnson, the No. 4 overall pick, does come in with a pedigree, he is still completely green. Given a choice between going after him or Jason Peters, you go Johnson all day until he gives you reason to change course. The rookie is going to be tested quite a bit.The Redskins have a pair of quality outside linebackers in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan that are sure to do just that Monday night.
Anticipating any nerves?
“Oh yeah, there’s butterflies for every game,” said Johnson. “I get kinda nervous a little bit. That’s how it’s been ever since high school.”
Johnson believes it will take him a couple series to adjust to what his opponent is throwing at him early on in his pro career. That was the case in the preseason game against Jacksonville when he locked up with Jason Babin. Johnson got schooled early but proved a quick study and soon found a way to slow down what the former Eagle was throwing at him.
“So far in terms of what Lane has done, we’ve been really, really happy with him,” said Kelly. “I think the one thing with Lane that impresses us the most is you may beat him on a move, but you very rarely beat him on the same move twice. He does such a great job of making in‑game adjustments. You’ll see he gave something up, whether Coach [Jeff] Stoutland is talking to him on the sideline, he just has a natural feel for it, which is really, for us, it’s been a great thing because the one thing he lacked, we knew he had all the athletic ability in the world, was just the experience factor because he was so new to the position. Offensive line in general. He was a high school quarterback, tight end, defensive end. Really only had two years at the collegiate level there.”
Johnson has been getting help from his fellow offensive linemen, who were quick to accept him into their group. He trained with Evan Mathis out in Arizona during the break between minicamp and training camp. Says the O-line hangs out together, eats together, watches movies together.
“It’s kind of like a brotherhood,” the 23-year-old said.
“If you have a guy coming in that’s a hard worker, humble dude that’s going to come in and work hard just like everyone else, the offensive line is going to respect that, it doesn’t matter who you are,” offered Jason Kelce. “If you’ve got a guy that’s going to be more the prima donna type, kind of individual guy, obviously the offensive line is going to struggle to accept him into their group, but luckily for us that isn’t the way Lane carries himself. He’s all about team. He’s all about the offensive line. He’s fit in really well with us.
“As a veteran really the only thing that I can do is kind of share experiences that I had to go through or saw other guys struggle with,” Kelce continued. “For instance, Danny [Watkins] really struggled with playing fast — he was too worried about making mistakes in some instances — so I can go out there and tell Lane, ‘Don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s only going to slow you down.’ The key to being a good football player in this league is to be able to play fast and play fast all the time. We’ll correct the mistakes, but the worst thing we can do is have you out there hesitant or not sure of yourself. You got to this level and were drafted high enough based on your play and the athletic set of tools that you have, so why not use that to your advantage and just go out there and play your game.”
When Johnson came to Philly he was between 300 and 305 pounds, he said, but has bumped up to 314 at the team’s request. If you can add weight without losing speed and agility, the theory goes, why not do it? So he is both a little heavier and a little more seasoned than when he first arrived. More NFL-ready. But the real initiation takes place Monday night.
“I’m ready to get out there and kind of break the ice,” he said. “After the first couple drives all the jitters go out and it’s just football. That’s what I’m ready for.”
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