4th overall selection by the Philadelphia Eagles
Overview: After a miserable 2012 campaign, Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman knew his offensive line had to be addressed in order for the offense to realize its potential under new head coach Chip Kelly. With left tackle Jason Peters recovering from a torn Achilles and incumbent right tackle Todd Herremans better suited at guard, Roseman and Kelly used their #4 overall selection on Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson. As a former JUCO quarterback and tight end, Johnson is one of the best pure athletes to ever play offensive tackle and put his athleticism on display at the NFL Combine. That performance vaulted him from a probable top 20 pick to a spot in the top 5 as a excellent fit in Chip Kelly’s fast paced and up tempo offense. Whether Kelly settles on the athletic veteran Michael Vick or 2012 3rd rounder Nick Foles, he will tailor his scheme to suit his quarterbacks strength which is what makes Johnson’s athleticism and versatility so key. Johnson’s strength in the running game will also be put to use with Pro Bowl running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy and 2012 7th round find Bryce Brown providing an explosive 1-2 punch for the Eagles.
Position Battles: With Jason Peters reportedly doing well in his recovery and ready to start on the blindside in week 1, Lane Johnson will begin his career at right tackle. Johnson’s move to right tackle should signal Todd Herremans switch to right guard, as Chip Kelly tries to find a way to get his 5 best offensive lineman on the field. If Johnson struggles early on the right side, 2nd year tackle Dennis Kelly could push him for playing time. Kelly started 10 games a season ago due to injuries, but struggled mightily. If everyone remains healthy, the Eagles starting offensive line from left to right should go Jason Peters and Evan Mathis on the left side, Jason Kelce at center, and Herremans and Johnson at right guard and tackle. The Eagles should field one of the most athletic units in the league.
Notable Match-Ups: Playing in the NFC East, Lane Johnson is going to be facing an elite pass rush tandem in every divisional game. The New York Giants go 4 deep at defensive end with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and 2013 4th rounder Damontre Moore. The Dallas Cowboys new “Tampa 2” 4-3 defense will feature bookend pass rushers Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Finally, the Washington Redskins 3-4 defense and a pair of emerging outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The Eagles final 2 games in September match them up against the Kansas City Chiefs rush duo of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston followed by Von Miller, Shaun Phillips, and the Denver Broncos. Perhaps the most intriguing match-up for Johnson will come in week 14 against the Detroit Lions and #5 overall pick Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah, the powerful and athletic defensive end from Brigham Young.
2014 and Beyond
Similar to his fellow 2013 Draft classmates Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, Johnson’s status as right tackle is a fluid situation. Tied almost entirely to the health and longterm capabilities of Jason Peters, who is entering his 10th NFL season at the age of 31. Johnson will undoubtably start the 2013 season on the right side, but if Peters struggles to regain his pre-injury form his status for 2014 could be in jeopardy. 2014 will be the final year of a 6 year deal Peters signed in 2009, and he carries a $9 million cap number. Howie Roseman has some decisions to make regarding his offensive line after 2013, but the only certainty is the presence of Lane Johnson.