For Lane Johnson, familiarity is paying off

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For Lane Johnson, familiarity is paying off

He’s not the new guy anymore, and for Lane Johnson, that’s perfectly fine.

A year after he entered OTAs as the Eagles' first-round pick (and fourth overall selection of the draft) and quickly found himself thrown into the starting lineup, Johnson feels much more relaxed this time around.

“This year is a lot different,” Johnson said. “I know the schedule, the plays and the offense, so I’m more familiar with things. I feel a lot more comfortable than as a rookie.”

While the Eagles have spent this year’s OTAs bringing their top draft picks along slowly and keeping them away from the first team, last year was much different. The team needed a new right tackle and Johnson was expected to contribute right away.

Despite starting all 16 games his rookie year, there is plenty of room for Johnson to improve as he enters his sophomore campaign. While he excelled as a run-blocker, the 6-foot-6, 317-pound tackle struggled at times in pass protection, giving up 11 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

According to Johnson, the biggest key to his development has been the stability of playing in one spot on the line.

If Johnson remains at right tackle as expected, it will be the first time he has played the same position in two consecutive years since high school.

A high school quarterback who arrived at Oklahoma as a tight end, Johnson was starting at right tackle by his junior year before moving to the left side as a senior. Switched back to the right side last year by the Eagles, he is looking forward to staying put for once.

“This is the first year I’ve been able to play the same position for consecutive years, so playing back-to-back [years] at right tackle will be good for me,” Johnson said. “In the pass set, I feel a lot more comfortable on the right side than I did last year.”

Having a year of experience under his belt has also helped Johnson become more vocal and assertive with his decision-making.

As part of a unit with three players (Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis and Jason Peters) over 30, Johnson kept mostly quiet last season and let his veteran teammates make the calls. He relied especially heavily on Herremans, who lined up next to him at right guard.

“He’s not a first-year player now and he’s not relying on Todd Herremans to make the calls for him,” Chip Kelly said before Tuesday’s OTA. “Last year, Lane made decisions by saying, ‘Todd, tell me what to do,’ and then executing it. Now he knows what to do and is communicating a little better with those guys.”

Barring injury, the Eagles will return the same starting offensive line in 2014 that helped them finish second in the NFL in points per game (27.6) last season and helped LeSean McCoy lead the league in rushing.

Having given up the most sacks and having committed the most penalties (eight) out the team’s starting linemen, Johnson will look to be more consistent in Year 2 and prove that he was worth being a top-four pick.

“There was a lot of guessing and being unsure of myself last year,” Johnson said. “I want to come out playing fast right away and be confident and I think when I do that good things will happen.”

Todd Herremans recalls unforgettable draft-day call from Eagles

Todd Herremans recalls unforgettable draft-day call from Eagles

When the Eagles held training camp at Lehigh, the day the full team reported to camp was marked by a parade of flashy, high-end vehicles.

In 2009, however, offensive lineman Todd Herremans drove up in something else.

A black — actually matte black — van.

“It was like a crossover — Scooby Doo, A-Team," Herremans said on this week's edition of the Measured Takes podcast with Amy Fadool and Marshall Harris.

Why a black van? Herremans explained how his first couple vehicles were minivans, the second a hand-me-down from his parents, which he drove in college and as a rookie in the NFL.

“After I started to buy different cars, wasting my money — I always drove these mom vans — I was like, you know what, I’m going to make a manly van. Hence the black van," he said.

Herremans, who spent 10 years with the Eagles and last played in 2015 with the Colts, discussed several topics in the podcast (listen here), including how football players can benefit from using marijuana (speaking of the black van), and the NFL draft — and about how he became a Philadelphia Eagle.

The Eagles selected Herremans in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Division II Saginaw Valley State. 

“I went to a small Division II school in Michigan and had a pretty tight group of friends there. I went to a very small high school and had a pretty tight group of friends there too. Mostly family and a few other close friends.

“So when I was thinking that I was going to get drafted, it was pretty big news. We had all of my high school and college friends over to my parents’ farm. We just kinda hung out there, set up some tents and campers in the backyard, and hung out and watched the draft and partied. Had a keg. Might have smoked a pig. It was a good time. 

"We thought that we were going to get picked on the first day. For some reason. Because that was rounds one through three back then. Maybe I was being a little overambitious, but I thought that some of the coaches that I had talked to while I was traveling around were telling me, ‘two or three — it looks good for you. If you’re there, we’re going to take you.’ I’m like OK, perfect. 

"We’re sitting there, and after the draft ended that day, we’re all feeling pretty good, but a little let down. Like ah, didn’t happen, oh well. But I’ve got all my friends over, might as well go to the bar! So we went to the local watering hole and just got into it. We were up late, and then the next day when the draft started, we were all just laying around, like hungover, couldn’t even know what was going on. Half awake. My phone rang. 

"So I jumped up and I went over and I answered it. I think it was (then Eagles general manager) Tom Heckert. (He said) 'Hey Todd, Tom Heckert, Philadelphia Eagles. Hang in there, I think we’re going to trade up for you right here.' I was like oh — hungover — like huh, that sounds good. 

"It just happened. He goes, ‘Welcome to the Philadelphia Eagles.’ I was like, oh OK cool. (He goes) ‘Here’s (offensive line coach) Juan Castillo.’ So I don’t even get to talk to my family or anything. I look in the room. It’s on the TV. Everyone is going nuts and (Todd impersonates Castillo) Juan’s like, ‘Hey, hey Todd how you doing? You got a second?’ Anything Coach, I just got drafted! 

"So I got into the next room away from everybody cheering and popping champagne and everything — and install offense for the next 40 minutes with Juan Castillo. Then he’s like, hey sounds like you’ve got your stuff together, you’ve got a good handle on this, go enjoy this time with your family and we’ll see you in a little bit. So when I meet up with my family, nobody’s hungover anymore, my family and friends — they’re all drunk again. 

That's odd, because those are normally perfunctory phone calls that last a couple minutes at the most.

“I think they are,” Herremans said.

But not this one.

“Juan’s a special guy," Herremans said. "Because Juan was a Division II guy (Texas A&M Kingsville), and he’s drafting me, a Division II player, I think we had an immediate connection in just the way we got along. I respected him. He respected me. Both hard workers. And we just clicked. So I don’t know, he know I wold stick on the phone with him for 40 minutes because I was from a Division II school, and he knew it would be an uphill climb for me.”

Listen to the rest of the podcast and subscribe to Measured Takes.

Ron Jaworski: Carson Wentz shouldn't 'have any input' in Eagles' 2017 NFL draft

Ron Jaworski: Carson Wentz shouldn't 'have any input' in Eagles' 2017 NFL draft

Should the Eagles give Carson Wentz a say in who they take in the draft?

He is the future of the franchise after all.

"If there's any player on our roster that has insight into a guy in free agency or the draft, it's part of our information gathering," Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said last Thursday.

So the Eagles will at least listen to Wentz — and others — about certain prospects. The second-year QB got a firsthand look at a few receiving prospects during offseason workouts. 

However, former Eagles quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski thinks it would be a "mistake" to give Wentz any input into the team's draft decision-making. 

"I don't think the quarterback should have any input in the draft," Jaworski said Tuesday. "Plain and simple. The quarterback should quarterback his football team. I know he'll be a teammate, but the Eagles — like every other team in this league — do extensive scouting. They know what they're doing, they'll select the player they believe is the best player."

Jaws would know -- he made that very mistake once.

"I had someone ask me a question back in 1978 or '79," Jaworski said. "They said, 'Hey Jaws, what do you think the Eagles need?' And I said we could probably improve our wide receiver position. 

"Oh, by the way, Harold Carmichael is one of our wide receivers, the next time I saw him he said, 'Hey, what are you talking about?' So it was a mistake, and I apologized to Harold and that was the last comment I ever made about the draft and my teammates. So I think players ought to shut up and let the front office make those decisions."

To be fair, Carmichael held a little more weight in his day than Nelson Agholor or Dorial Green-Beckham do now. 

Jaworski went on to tell a wild story of his own draft day in 1973 (watch video here), and also made the case for the Eagles to stock up on cornerbacks in the draft (watch video here).