EaglesBengals: The Dhani Bowl

EaglesBengals: The Dhani Bowl

We're sure you're already sick of all the stories about that guy who used to play for the Birds. The man is a superstar though, and he played a major role in Super Bowl XXXIX. We're talking of course about Dhani Jones, who signed with the Bengals in 2007 and has actually become a very capable middle linebacker on a stout defense.

Unlike the Jaguars last week, Cincinnati should provide somewhat of a test for Kevin Kolb and the offense. The Bengals' defense ranked as a top five unit overall last season, featuring a pair of excellent, young corners in Justin Joseph and Leon Hall who wouldn't mind putting the hype about Philly's own youngsters to rest. Something's gotta give.

The skill players aren't the only ones who will be tested. The Bengals front seven will give the Eagles' line all they can handle. DT Domata Peko is the catalyst up front. He and Tank Johnson will go after an interior that has plenty of question marks right now, including C Mike McGlynn who is making his second start of the preseason.

Jason Peters will be matched up one-on-one with DE Anwtan Odom, who was off to a flying start in '09 with 8 sacks before his season was cut short with an ACL injury. He's back on the field, but he seemed to be lacking burst in Hall of Fame game against Dallas.

The Bengals have also been using second year player Michael Johnson to wreak havoc from the linebacker position. Johnson, a 6'7" converted defensive end from Georgia Tech, doesn't seem like a good fit at first impression, but he plays very fast and had a pair of sacks in the Cowboys game. This will help us get a feel for where the offense is with their blitz pickups, especially in the backfield.

On defense, we'll be keeping an eye on the right cornerbacks. Whether it's Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens, Ellis Hobbs and company are in for some stiff competition. Even though both receivers are past their primes, and Carson Palmer may be as well, they're still quality veterans who can easily beat inferior competition.

Up front, Stewart Bradley and the Eagles' run D will have their hands full with fantasy football zombie Cedric Benson. Benson, not Palmer, has really become the focal point of the Bengals' offense, and he forms a nice little thunder-lightning combo with speedy Bernard Scott. Should be interesting to see how Bradley is moving around out there and if the linebackers can keep either ball carrier from reaching the secondary.

Also of note, we didn't get a chance to talk about it this week, but Michael Vick looked absolutely explosive against Jacksonville. He was playing within the offense, going through his progressions and checking down, but he also showcased that Houdini elusiveness. His 15-yard dash to the end zone may have looked easy, but the fact that he beat everybody to the pylon was downright impressive. He's back, and perhaps better than ever.

We'll also almost definitely have more opportunities to evaluate Nate Allen and the rest of the first string defense, who played all of six snaps last week. The starters are expected to play the entire first half, so even though it doesn't count, there should be some solid football tonight.

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.