One last cameo for Lane Johnson before he disappears for four weeks.
Once the rosters are finalized on Saturday, Johnson’s four-game suspension kicks in. He is not allowed to participate in team activities, use the team’s facilities or have contact with any club officials (except to arrange off-site medical treatment) during this time. Johnson will play in the preseason finale Thursday night against the Jets, and then he’s cut off.
"Just being here," said Johnson, when asked what he is going to miss. "It's a family. You're in such a routine. You see each other every day, it's just familiarity. Not being around for a month is going to be different, I think even for some of the guys not having my presence here. It's going to suck but thank God it's only a month, just try to make the best of it."
The second-year tackle is heading to a training facility in Dallas called API. It was recommended by a member of the Eagles training staff, in part because of its nutrition program. He'll be just a couple hours from his home in Groverton, TX, which should give him a chance to see his family on occasion.
Johnson has been working with the second team this preseason while his replacement, Allen Barbre, took all the snaps with the ones.
"I've seen Allen progress during the move and it was important we got him there day one and really comfortable playing next to Todd [Herremans]," said Chip Kelly. "He's going to be our starting right tackle, barring an injury in terms of us moving forward here in those four games. Did a really nice job in the run game, gave up a little pressure, but it was not an assignment error. It was some technique things he continued to work on and I thought he did a nice job."
Barbre yielded a sack, a quarterback hit and three QB pressures over the course of 85 snaps this preseason, according to Pro Football Focus.
"I wasn't 100 percent happy with what I did [in the preseason] so I'm not going out and saying, 'I've got it figured out.' From every game, I keep watching things and things I see that I think I can fix and I want to play better," said Barbre.
Johnson, meanwhile, has anchored a second unit that has played above expectations and looked very strong against Pittsburgh's first-team defense last week. Asked about that group's performance, Kelly started by saying, "Obviously it's been bolstered because of Lane..."
This may have been the most underplayed storyline of the offseason. The Eagles are going to be without their starting right tackle, their No. 4 overall pick, for at least a quarter of a season. It could be longer. Can Johnson, after not practicing with the team for four weeks, realistically jump right back in Week 5?
"It's just a waste of time for us to have this conversation when we spend three hours in a meeting talking about what's the scenario, and you look up and our right tackle is Matt Tobin in the game because Allen got hurt or a couple other injuries could happen. You never really know," said Kelly. "We'll address it when the time is necessary. But we've got four games of Allen playing with us, and hopefully we can keep all five of those guys healthy up front. And then bring Lane back and work him into the mix and see how it fits at that point in time."
The Eagles benefitted greatly from having the same starting line together for the full 16 last season. That will not be the case this year. Barbre, who has not started a game since 2009, is in charge of the right tackle spot for the time being. He'll be asked to hold it down while Johnson heads west to serve his time.
"I feel better," said Barbre, "but there is still work to be done."