Eagles Wake-Up Call: Lane Johnson Set To Start
More than three weeks after news leaked about Lane Johnson’s failed drug test, the Eagles are still in limbo as they enter the regular season unsure of when their $60 million right tackle may or may not be suspended.
Even if Johnson’s 10-game ban comes down in the next week before the Eagles host the Browns, the appeals process could take weeks, further complicating who will compose the starting offensive line. Amid the uncertainty, Doug Pederson has decided to take a rather simple approach.
“Until I get further word from the league office, he goes in as my starting right tackle,” Pederson said after the Eagles’ 14-6 win over the Jets.
Johnson described last week how he’s getting “more pissed off each day” as no end is in sight for him, and he also explained how he didn’t know what grounds he would appeal on yet because his camp wanted to see what the NFL’s ruling would be first.
Like Johnson, Pederson doesn’t know whether he’ll hear about the 26-year-old’s status before final cuts must be made.
“You know what, if I haven’t heard now — it may not be in the next couple days,” Pederson said. “I don’t know that. I’m not going to speculate. That’s why we did what we did during training camp with the [alternate] plans and the [use of] different guys, just so we’d be prepared for this situation. Going forward, he [Johnson] goes in as our right tackle and we’ll move Allen [Barbre] back to left guard.”
However, if Johnson does eventually miss most of the season, Pederson hasn’t finalized who would start at left guard as Barbre would shift to right tackle. Isaac Seumalo appears to have the edge in that competition, but Stefen Wisniewski played significantly better in Week 3 of the preseason than Seumalo did in Weeks 1 and 2; Seumalo has also been hindered by a pectoral injury.
Regardless of how the starting lineup shakes out, the Eagles’ communication and chemistry up front could suffer because of the lack of continuity. Johnson hasn’t taken first-team offensive line reps in practice in almost four weeks, and he has only played three snaps with the starters during the preseason.
Jason Kelce recently described how it’s difficult to execute combo-blocks with other linemen when they have little experience with each other, which is what the Eagles will likely experience as Brandon Brooks settles in at right guard and Seumalo or Wisniewski takes over at some point in the season at left guard.
“It is tough. It is tough,” Pederson said. “You would like to know one way or the other, whether or not you get the exemption spot and things like that. It could be difficult. It could be a little challenging. But you know, I’m not going to let that bother our football team. I’m not going to let that bother us and we’re going to get ready for Cleveland.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
What we saw from the Eagles’ 14-6 win over the Jets.
Check out our Open Thread from last night’s preseason finale.
The 2017 NFL Draft will officially be held in Philadelphia in April.
“It’s nice, it really made me happy.” Jeremiah Trotter and Merrill Reese on their upcoming inductions into the team’s hall of fame.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com thinks rookie undrafted free agent Paul Turner will make the team.
2. And then there’s Paul Turner, who really needed an impressive performance to solidify that No. 5 wide receiver spot and certainly responded. Turner’s been solid but you know Howie Roseman is going to be scouring the waiver wire to upgrade the roster after final cuts, and Turner is the kind of kid who without an impressive performance Thursday night could have made the 53-man roster only to be replaced later in the weekend. But Turner once again was exceptional, with six catches for 66 yards — including first downs of 17 and 20 yards — and a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown. Turner doesn’t have super measurables but he has those soft hands that coaches talk about. He catches the ball quietly and softly and effortlessly and brings it into his body smoothly. I’m not sure who to compare Turner to. Probably Greg Lewis is the closest, but Turner doesn’t have his speed. It’s rare for an undrafted free-agent wide receiver to make this team, but Turner has done enough to earn it.
3. Speaking of Lewis, he deserves some credit for the work he’s done in his first year as the Eagles’ wide receivers coach. Josh Huff has shown improvement, [Dorial] Green-Beckham has quickly assimilated into the offense, Turner has looked like a steal and even the bottom-of-the-roster guys like Cayleb Jones, David Watford and Marcus Johnson look like potential NFL players. I was not a fan of Bob Bicknell, who coached receivers under Chip Kelly. I never thought he connected with his guys and I don’t think they ever really learned how to run crisp, decisive routes. I’m still not sure what to make of this wide receiver group, but I know it’s better than it would be without G-Lew.
Mychal Kendricks played in three drives in the fourth preseason game, so the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane asks whether Kendricks got Doug Pederson’s message.
But there’s a new sheriff in town, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. [Jim] Schwartz is old school. If he thought that Kendricks was milking his hamstring injury, having him play with the second unit – when even third-team running back Kenjon Barner and tight end Trey Burton were inactive – would be an old school way of sending a message.
Kendricks didn’t appear to loaf out there. In fact, he made some nice plays. He dropped Jets tailback Khiry Robinson for a 1-yard loss on first down. He fought off a blocker and ran Robinson out of bounds after just 3 yards. He was in coverage when quarterback Bryce Petty threw incomplete on a failed two-point conversion.
This being Kendricks, there was a time when he appeared out of his gap responsibility and another when a Jets lineman gobbled him up at the second level. But considering the stakes, he played a noble 13 plays.
When the second half opened, Kendricks and the recently acquired Stephen Tulloch emerged from the locker room without pads. When the Eagles signed Tulloch last week, Kendricks gave a mixed response about whether he thought he had to look over his shoulder.
We’ll take one last look at Paul Turner as the Eagles begin to make cuts today.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.