Eagles Select Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson with the Fourth Overall Pick

Eagles Select Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson with the Fourth Overall Pick

Last season was a case study in the importance of the
offensive line for the Eagles. Not surprisingly, they took the opportunity to fortify
the position through the draft.

Howie Roseman stayed put at number four to
select Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson in the first round of the NFL
Draft on Thursday night. He will likely be penciled in to start on the right side from
day one, and should eventually supplant Jason Peters on the left.

[MORE ON LANE: Lane Johnson wrestles bears | Evan Mathis wastes no time to have some fun with Lane Johnson]

Hailed as “the most athletic offensive tackle in the draft”
by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, Johnson sounds like a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s
up-tempo offense. He has the size you look for (6-6, 303), plus a bit of a
nasty streak as well.

Here’s the full profile via NFL.com:

Strengths

Uses his athleticism well,
displaying good foot quickness to mirror pass rushers off the edge to deny them
the corner and adjust to their inside moves. Easily reaches second-level
targets when pulled outside or stepping up in the box, and sustains the block.
Generally plays with good pad level and balance despite his height, and can
fire out from a three-point stance and generate a bit of push on run plays.
Johnsons feet keep moving through initial contact,
allowing him to get into the correct blocking angle while engaged. He
also uses his hands and length well to maintain distance with the defender. NFL
coaches will like that he plays with an attitude, as he looks willing to
hand-fight with defensive ends, usually landing multiple strong punches, and
will consistently finish blocks with a strong arm extension.

Weaknesses

Lack of experience on the offensive
line is a concern, so putting another strong season on tape will be a boon to
his draft stock. Height will always be an issue when trying to get leverage
against veteran pro defensive linemen, must continue to add strength throughout
his frame to control and anchor.

The one concern with Johnson is that he’s a bit more of a
project than Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel,
who went first and second overall to the Chiefs and Jaguars respectively.
However, it’s rare (for most franchises) to be in a position to snag an elite prospect
at offensive tackle.

Much of the reason Johnson is so raw is because he played so
many positions, including quarterback at high school and for one year of junior
college, then tight end and finally defensive end at Oklahoma. Sooners head
coach Bob Stoops talked about Johnson’s transformation with ESPN.com’s Jake
Trotter.

“We were always trying to find the
best spot for Lane, and we knew even before then that [tackle] was a
possibility,” Stoops said. “We were always looking because we appreciated how
hard he worked -- like, we’ve got to get him on the field.

“He was starving himself at 270 to play D-end. And I asked
(strength coach Jerry Schmidt) how long it’d take him to get to 300 pounds, and
he said, ‘About a week and a cheeseburger.’ And he was right, it didn’t take
him long.”

Many of the Eagles’ woes up front were supposed to be solved
through players returning from injury. Peters, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans
were all lost last season. Both tackles are into their 30s though, and Peters
may never be the same again after suffering a twice-ruptured Achilles. Plus,
they still had a hole at right guard where 2011 first-round selection Danny
Watkins appears to be a bust.

With Johnson in the fold, Herremans can move back to guard
where he played during his first six seasons. Down the road, Johnson will provide
the front office with flexibility if/when Peters goes into decline.

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Offensive line is never the most exciting pick, but it is
typically one of the safest at the top of the draft. And as we saw in 2012, it’s
an area where a team can be just an injury or two away from becoming a complete
trainwreck.

For that reason I can’t imagine too many people in the Delaware
Valley are going to be disappointed by the selection. Since Chip arrived, the
Eagles’ moves have been about building the foundation of a team. This was just
the latest, and there are plenty more picks to come.

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The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).