Refs and Freeney teach Lane Johnson a lesson

Refs and Freeney teach Lane Johnson a lesson

September 16, 2013, 8:00 am
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Lane Johnson blocks for Michael Vick in Sunday's loss to San Diego. (AP)

What if James Casey had held on to that touchdown pass in the first quarter?

What if Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson had connected on two their four bombs instead of one?

What if Alex Henery hadn't missed a 46-yard field goal?

And then there's the what-if involving rookie right tackle Lane Johnson.

What if Lane Johnson had been called for only the first of his two illegal formation penalties?

Twice in Sunday's loss to the Chargers (see story) the Eagles' first-round pick was flagged for failing to line up properly. The first was declined because Michael Vick fumbled (or decided not to throw a pass and couldn't hang on to the ball).

The second one will haunt Johnson until at least Thursday when he takes the field against the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson was lined up slightly behind the line of scrimmage, and the penalty negated a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jackson. The Eagles settled for a 48-yard field goal.

"That was stupid. The last one, I thought I was on the line, and I guess I wasn't. It cost us a touchdown ... and it potentially cost us the game," Johnson said. "That's foolish on my part."

What happened?

"I thought I was even with Todd, and after the touchdown was called, they said I was lined up in the backfield," Johnson said. "That's what the ref called. Foolish penalties out there cost you a game, and that's what it did today."

One way to prevent such a penalty is to ask the ref.

"There's a bunch of times I go up to the line and look at the official -- kinda like a wide receiver -- to make sure I was on line and try to correct it," Johnson said.

Problem is, like an umpire's strike zone, it varies per referee.

"It's tricky," center Jason Kelce said. "Every official is different when they call that call. Most of them will give multiple warnings beforehand. I'm not sure how many warnings were given. Bottom line is, you've got to line up the right way before you start the play off, otherwise you're going to get a penalty. Unfortunately, it happened in a crucial situation, and we lost some points."

Fortunately for Johnson, he learned something else from Sunday's loss besides the arbitrary nature of the illegal formation rules.  

"I think me going against opponents like Dwight Freeney, a potential Hall of Famer, and just getting that much more experience against pass-rushers and getting that confidence to go out there and compete against them," said Johnson, who got a taste of Freeney's patented spin move.

"Oh yeah. He got me on the outside spin move. Other than that though, he didn't really spin that much. He tried to bull me a bunch. He's the real deal. ... I thought he was about to bull-rush me, and then he hit me with the quick outside spin, and he got me."