Prior to the draft, Tra Thomas was asked to pick between the top three tackles in the class: Did he prefer Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel or Lane Johnson?
“I definitely would take Lane Johnson,” Thomas, now a coaching intern with the Eagles, told 97.5 The Fanatic. “I’ve watched all of these guys. I’ve watched their personal workouts, I’ve watched some game film on them.
“When I look at Johnson, he can play left and he can play right. He’s an athletic guy. I’ve watched him play: he’s got long arms, great athletic ability and I think because he has experience playing at that right side, he’s a perfect fit.”
As it turned out, Fisher went No. 1 to the Chiefs, Joeckel went second to the Jaguars and Johnson landed with the Eagles at 4. Now that he works with him every day, what is his assessment of the rookie?
“He’s been everything that we expected out of him,” Thomas said. “You can definitely see that he was the better pick out of those top three tackles that came in. He’s been a really good addition to the group.”
Thomas’ knowledge and experience is being passed down to the 6-6, 303-pound Johnson, both directly and indirectly. The former 11th overall pick was the starting left tackle in Philly from 1998-2008, going to three Pro Bowls in that span. Todd Herremans worked directly to Thomas’ right from ’06-08. Herremans is now working directly to Johnson’s left. The rookie has been leaning on Herremans for guidance, and Herremans has been leaning on his time with Thomas as he mentors the newcomer.
“I use my reference with Tra a lot because I played next to Tra for a long time and I thought that we were pretty productive on the left side,” said Herremans. “With Tra being out here helping us, it’s really easy to roll it over. So a lot of times I’ll flash back to what me and Tra did for certain things, and he’s really receptive to it.”
“With Todd next to me — a very smart player, he knows when things are coming — he helps me out a lot,” said Johnson.
The Oklahoma product graded out higher than any other Eagles’ lineman against the Patriots and put together a solid performance overall versus the Panthers as well. So far, so good for Thomas’ pre-draft pick.
“The good news is we haven’t talked about a rookie right tackle much,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “Usually when you don’t talk about the linemen, it’s a good thing.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Nick Foles is looking to bounce back, while Dennis Kelly‘s rehabbing to get his back right.
Eagles-Panthers game review, courtesy of Sheil. You can read his breakdown of the offense here and the defense here.
Jason Peters plans on suiting up against the Jaguars.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jeff McLane writes that Kelly’s simplified system is helping Michael Vick.
“The whole thing is designed to really take what the defense is giving you. It’s pretty clear-cut for the most part usually what [Vick] should do with the ball,” Kelce said. “It’s pretty simple and that’s something this offense has to be with the tempo it runs at.
“You can’t make this whole, complex ordeal out there. You just have to go with the play and trust that it’s going to be the right one, and if it’s not, we’re going to come at you two, three seconds later with another one.”
Doug Farrar of SI.com writes that the play-fake element of Kelly’s offense is what made life tough for Carolina on Thursday.
“I’m not sure if it was as much tiring as much as we probably overplayed the play action and it’s all part of it,” [Panthers coach Ron] Rivera said. “It stymies your pass rush. One of the things that you can’t do is you can’t allow that play-action to [stop] you doing your assignment. We started watching the mesh point a little bit too much, in my opinion. I’ll get an opportunity to see it on tape but I really thought that we were letting it freeze us a little too much and they did some really nice things. This is assignment football when you play a team like this.”
The mesh point, to be specific, is the point in the play where the quarterback either hands off to the running back or decides to keep it himself. Kelly likes to move the mesh point around, which is a common concept among the best play action, read-option and Pistol offenses. Against the Panthers, the Eagles especially benefited from this idea when running back LeSean McCoy was in the game in the first half, setting up his usual array of ankle-breaking cuts in space. Once the Eagles had the Panthers on a course to look for McCoy above all as a matter of survival, often leaving linebacker Luke Kuechly to spy on the quarterback, the pursuit issues began. However, the great thing about these “option action” ideas is that if everyone’s on the same page, you don’t have to be superstars to pull it off.
Day off for the Birds. We’ll get you your fix.