It Could Take Some Time for Lane Johnson to Excel in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Eagles invested their highest draft pick of this century in Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson, so I have little doubt that the Eagles will get him into the starting lineup this season—regardless of how much the somewhat raw rookie struggles.
It's not particularly concerning that 2012 fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly has been taking first-team reps ahead of Johnson early on in organized team activities, but it is a small sign that Johnson isn't quite ready yet.
That might change between now and Philadelphia's Monday Night Football opener in Washington on September 9, but it's another indication that he could experience more growing pains than expected.
Ben Muth from Football Outsiders provided a rather discouraging assessment of Johnson's pass-blocking skills in an analysis published last week:
Johnson is a pretty horrific fundamental pass blocker who probably wouldn't have gone in the top five in any other draft. Well, maybe the 2000 NBA Draft. Nothing he does can't be fixed, but if you're taking someone that early, you would probably like a few less loose nails.
It's important to remember that, only two years ago, Johnson was a tight end and defensive end. And only four years ago, he was a quarterback.
He became a third-team All-American at tackle and has quality experience on both the left and right side in the highly competitive Big 12, but now he's going to have to face Brian Orakpo, Tamba Hali, Von Miller and Jason Pierre-Paul in the first five weeks of his third season at the position.
The point is that Johnson might not immediately help the Eagles in the same way other top-five picks have been able to in years past. This was a weak draft class and—as Muth points out—Johnson likely wouldn't have been such a high pick in previous years. His circumstances have put added pressure on him.
The third tackle didn't go off the board last year until Mitchell Schwartz was taken in Round 2, 33 spots later than Johnson went in 2013.
In 2010, Anthony Davis was the third tackle taken and he went relatively high as well in the No. 11 spot. He surrendered 11 sacks and took 11 penalties as the fifth-worst offensive tackle in the league that year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
One year prior, Eugene Monroe was the most recent third tackle to be taken inside the top 10 when he was drafted eighth overall by Jacksonville. That year, PFF rated his pass-blocking 66th among 77 qualifying offensive tackles.
It didn't happen overnight for either of those guys, so don't expect things to click immediately for Johnson, either.
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