Eagles OL Coach Jeff Stoutland Talks Early Impressions of Lane Johnson, Jason Peters’ Comeback

Eagles OL Coach Jeff Stoutland Talks Early Impressions of Lane Johnson, Jason Peters’ Comeback

For being the fourth-overall pick in the draft, Lane Johnson sure seems to be flying under the radar these days. He’s probably not even the ninth or tenth biggest story at Eagles OTAs, situated somewhere between Evan Mathis urinating on an IRS sign and the punting competition between Donnie Jones and Brad Wing.

Danny Watkins must be having a heck of a time wrapping his head around that. Heck, the 2011 first rounder is still being held under the microscope more than Johnson, and Watkins is considered depth at this point.

Johnson may be getting upstaged in the news by most of his linemates, but his progress is being closely monitored for sure – after all, he is penciled in to be the opening day starter at right tackle. Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland sat down with reporters last week, and discussed how the rookie is adapting during the Q&A transcribed by Daily News columnist Paul Domowitch.

Q: What are your early impressions of your first-round draft pick, Lane Johnson?

A: “From the skill-set standpoint, he’s really good. He’s long. His arms are long. He’s explosive. He’s everything that we thought he would be. Now, we’ve got to get him into some really good habits.

“I enjoy coaching him so much. There are so many things I can bring to the table for him. I can see exactly what he’s doing wrong. Here’s what’s great about Lane. When you tell him something or correct him about something, he’s a blue-collar guy. He’s not offended. He doesn’t give you a look or anything. He just wants to learn and be coached hard.

“After you correct him, he goes out on the field and applies what you’ve taught him. It shows up in the video the next day. It’s apparent that he was listening and applying what you’re teaching.”

That quote may sound ho-hum to some folks, but I think it highlights one of Johnson’s most-frequently overlooked attributes: football IQ.

Johnson has lined up all over the field. He played quarterback, tight end, and defensive end in college before finally shifting to offensive tackle permanently. That might make him a raw prospect for fourth overall, but it also means he understands the game from a variety of perspectives.

He is able to pick up new concepts, and relatively quickly at that it would seem.

Does an offensive lineman have to be smart? Maybe not necessarily, but possessing a first-hand awareness about what the quarterback might be thinking, what the tight end to his right should be doing, and how the defender lined up across from him is trying to attack can’t hurt, either.

Stoutland discussed Johnson some more, but the all-encompassing interview touched on quite possibly the biggest concern on the line in Jason Peters, who is a little bit more than a year removed from twice rupturing his Achilles tendon. From the sound of things, the coaching staff continues to be encouraged by the left tackle’s recovery.

Q: Can Jason Peters come all the way back from his Achilles injury?

A: “Honestly, you wouldn’t know Jason ever had an injury. For a guy his size, the leverage that he gains... he plays so low to the ground. Moves his feet so fast. Out of all the players I’ve ever coached, he’s got the best balance and body control of anybody I’ve ever seen.”

>> Q&A with Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland [Eagletarian]

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

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Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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