Weekend Reading: Lane Johnson’s Rigorous Training

NFL: St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia EaglesHere are some links and stories regarding the Eagles that are worth checking out this weekend.

Dave Spadaro of philadelphiaeagles.com reports on Lane Johnson’s offseason MMA workouts in California:

Johnson enrolled at MMA Athletics, a program founded by Mixed Martial Arts legend Randy Couture and FOX NFL insider Jay Glazer, an established program that takes athletes’ conditioning to an entirely different level.

“I want to be elite at my position in the NFL, and I felt that this would help me get there,” Johnson says now, fresh off a training session at the NovaCare Complex. “I have a lot of confidence about what’s ahead of me.

“I think I’m getting close to being elite. Last year was a big stepping stone from my rookie year and I just have to be more aggressive and more violent going into Year 3.”

Enter the Hollywood workouts, which forced Johnson to vomit nine times in the first three days. Two-hour workouts were divided into four segments — explosion work, core strengthening and loosening, MMA training and weight training. Johnson pushed sleds, ran hills, explored jiu-jitsu, went into the ring and boxed, worked on his leverage in Greco-Roman wrestling — all above the waist, and an exercise that demands great leverage — and further understood the concept of what Glazer and Couture teach: Football is a series of 60 10-second fights.

Rob Rang of CBS Sports weighs in on some of the team’s offseason changes:

While sources suggest that Kelly did very much pursue a trade up for his former quarterback Marcus Mariota prior to the draft, I’m among those who believe Sam Bradford has the accuracy and football savvy to star in the Eagles’ up-tempo offense. Health, of course, will prove most important for the oft-injured Bradford. A dynamic pass-catcher like Agholor – something Bradford never had in St. Louis – could serve as a close second.

Other thoughts on the Eagles’ 2015 draft class:

Agholor will have the make the most immediate impact for the Eagles but some believe that second round pick Eric Rowe could also start as a rookie. Rowe – whom the Eagles traded two fifth round picks in order to land – has the length and physicality Kelly wants at cornerback and starred at free safety prior to making the switch to corner for Utah as a senior. Both are positions of concern for the Eagles, especially given how little time the defense gets to rest due to Kelly’s fast-paced offense. Despite the addition of pricey free agent Byron Maxwell (signed from Seattle), Kelly said that Rowe would start off at cornerback.

Current Penn State coach James Franklin seems to be pretty smitten with another Eagles wide out, Jordan Matthews:

“I love Jordan,” Franklin said in an appearance on Comcast SportsNet’s Philly Sports TalkMonday. “I’ve had a man crush on Jordan for a long time. I told the Eagles’ organization that when they were thinking about drafting him.”

Franklin and Matthews experienced plenty of success together at Vanderbilt. Under Franklin, the Commodores were ranked in the end-of-season AP Top 25 poll in 2012 and 2013, the same seasons that Matthews was named first team All-SEC.

Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice lists five positions to focus on as the Eagles begin practicing, including cornerback:

Second round pick Eric Rowe also has experience playing safety, but Chip Kelly said he’ll start off at corner initially. This is the correct move, in my opinion. While the safety position has been a major problem area for the Eagles for more than a half decade, the more important position is corner, and it’s not as if the Eagles don’t have major issues there as well. If Rowe doesn’t pan out at corner, you always have the option to move him to safety, but the reverse transition is harder.

The Eagles would love to see Rowe outright win the CB2 job opposite Byron Maxwell, and he’ll have every opportunity to do so. He’ll have to fend off competition from the “versatile guys” noted above in the safety group, as well as Brandon Boykin, if you buy that the Eagles will actually give him a fair chance to win a starting job on the outside (which I don’t).

Jeff McLane of the Inquirer looks at the current state of the Eagles defensive line:

The strength of the Eagles’ defense was up front last season and Chip Kelly predictably did little to supplement the unit this offseason. Not one free agent was signed and a defensive lineman wasn’t selected until the seventh round of the draft. [Brian] Mihalik is an intriguing prospect. It’s unlikely he’ll crack the 53-man roster, though. He spent most of his career at Boston College as an edge rusher and will have to learn how to two-gap as a four-technique defensive end in the Eagles’ scheme. Mihalik has impressive length (6-foot-9), but after seeing him for the first time during rookie camp, it’s clear he’ll need time to bulk up. He has narrow shoulders.

The Eagles added another 6-9 end when they re-signed Frances Mays after the draft. Mays spent last training camp with the Eagles and was released before the season. He wasn’t picked up by another NFL team, but eventually transitioned into the Arena League. Mays is built like a power forward. His body is more defined than Mihalik, but he doesn’t have a large base. Kelly loves having length on defense. I’m not sure Mays would get a shot from many other teams. Tall, thin d-ends like Mays can sometimes topple over easily.