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Lane Johnson's Deal A Great Start

Posted Jul 20, 2013

This is how you want to usher in the start of a new era, a new home for Training Camp, and the arrival of a promising group of rookies due into the NovaCare Complex on Monday: You complete the signing of the 2013 draft class …

That’s what the Eagles did on Saturday evening when they announced that first-round draft pick Lane Johnson had agreed to terms on a four-year contract, alleviating any concerns that the “offset” language of the negotiations, much discussed in the recent days, would delay Johnson’s entrance to Training Camp.

Johnson is on board now, along with the entire draft class, as the Eagles dot the I’s and cross the T’s on their Training Camp plan. The coaches have mapped out their day-by-day routine and they have the understanding of just what they need to do first with the rookies and selected veterans for the first three days at the NovaCare Complex and then the entire 90-man roster when it reports on Thursday.

T Lane Johnson

What to expect of Johnson? Clearly, the Eagles have big plans in mind for a young man who showed in the spring practices a rapt understanding of the techniques taught by line coach Jeff Stoutland, a tremendous amount of athletic ability and the want-to required to be great at the NFL level. Johnson ended the spring practices as the starter at right tackle, and while that is certainly not a guarantee to a starting job right at the jump of his career, it does signify that he made enough progress to earn a bump up in the, ‘What-does-it-really-mean?’ spring depth chart.

If the Eagles can get Johnson up to speed and allow him to work his way through the inevitable speed bumps he will encounter, he has a chance to earn a lot of playing time and provide a strong presence at right tackle. And you already know what kind of upside an offensive line that returns a strong group of veterans and a lot of promising depth has here. The Eagles want the line to be a tremendous strong point, so Johnson’s improvement is critical in the big picture both in the short term and in the long term.

Keep in mind that Johnson is an inexperienced offensive lineman. He was a quarterback in college, as you know, and there aren’t going to be a lot of nine-year NFL veterans impressed with his ability to deceive with a play-action fake and a bootleg to the right side. They want to take advantage of the kid’s inexperience. They want to show Johnson things he has never before seen.

And so having Johnson in from the very first day is important, and a wonderful positive to have. There are no contract distractions, then, a credit to the Eagles’ negotiating team and Johnson’s agent Ken Sarnoff. Everyone understands the importance of having the rookies into Training Camp from the very first minute of classroom instruction and on-field drills.

Three days of work with a limited number of linemen gives Stoutland a hands-on look at where his young prospects are in their development. It gives the kids an opportunity to refresh what they learned in the spring and gain some footing before the veterans arrive and the tempo increases.  And in a week’s time, give or take a day or so, the defensive linemen on the other side of the ball will have the green light to hit, and play physical football and work on what they’ve learned in one-on-one drills.

Tying up the Johnson contract is the last loose end that remained before training camp started. It’s possible the Eagles will make a roster move, because that’s just the nature of the business. General manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly are always looking to improve the roster, always a fluid situation. But the big piece, the Johnson contract, is done, and the pathway to Monday’s report day is clear and bright.

Johnson is in on time and he will have the chance to develop at his pace with a full slate of Training Camp under his belt. It feels good to have this bit of momentum bouncing into the opening of camp, knowing No. 1 is all set to go.

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