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Lane Johnson Ready For Big Test Sunday

Posted Sep 6, 2017

Lane Johnson keeps apologizing. He has hurt the team with two suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and, to this very day, he is sorry. So sorry. And absolutely in the mindset that “if I can get out of my own way and go play to the best of my ability, this can be a special season for me." ...

Lane Johnson keeps apologizing. He has hurt the team with two suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and, to this very day, he is sorry. So sorry. And absolutely in the mindset that “if I can get out of my own way and go play to the best of my ability, this can be a special season for me.”

Welcome to the opener, Lane.

“I’m very excited. I’ve let this team down too many times and the only person that has really stopped me has been me,” Johnson said. “I think last year was the start of my peak, and I just want to keep the momentum going. I know what kind of player I can be. People see what kind of player I can be on the field, so it’s just a matter of getting there and staying consistent.”

Johnson, and the Eagles' offensive line, gets his first great test on Sunday against a Washington front that is aggressive and that plays with power and has a lot of speed. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is the featured veteran, he of 58.5 career sacks and a history of killing the Eagles. Johnson didn’t play in either Eagles-Washington game last season, and Kerrigan was a one-man wrecking crew.

He overwhelmed then-rookie tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai with two sacks in the game at FedEx Field, beating Vaitai on the game’s first snap and setting the tone as Washington recorded five quarterback sacks. Kerrigan then took advantage of a hobbled Matt Tobin late in the game at Lincoln Financial Field weeks later (Ryan Mathews did not follow through on an assignment to help Tobin on the play) and got to quarterback Carson Wentz for a strip sack, snuffing an Eagles drive that reached inside the Washington 20-yard line.

Kerrigan is good. He’s really, really good.

“I respect that guy, the way he plays the game,” Johnson said. “Going up against him, I know I have to be at my best. He’s got moves, he’s very athletic, and the one thing about him is that he just doesn’t stop. It’s going to be a battle. The last time I played him it was a one-on-one battle, so I expect the same thing this time.”

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The way of the world in the NFL has changed somewhat, and instead of lining up their best pass rushers on the right side, defensive coordinators try to take advantage of the “weaker” tackle, on the right side. So Johnson opens with Kerrigan and then he’s got Kansas City’s Justin Houston and then the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul and someone named Joey Bosa and then Chandler Jones from Arizona and so on and so on.

“Have you seen the guys I’m going against this year?” Johnson said. “This is gonna be the biggest test of my career. I have to be at my best every week.”

The pressure is on Johnson, and he knows it. A first-round draft pick in 2013, Johnson was suspended for four games in 2014 and then 10 games last season. Losing Johnson was a significant blow to an offensive line that had something special going through four games in 2016. All of a sudden, Vaitai was out there before he was ready to be a starter and he had a tough go of it for a few games before improving.

So having Johnson out at right tackle for 16 games is critical for the Eagles. This offense has big plans. Johnson controlling the right edge for Wentz helps in so many ways.

“Lane is a great player and we’ve developed a really good chemistry,” said right guard Brandon Brooks. “We know how good Washington is up front. They are extremely aggressive. They run some games up front and try to get you off balance. They’re going to bring a lot to the table. Our communication has to be great and we just all have to be on the same page.”

Sunday is the start for Johnson. A new start, maybe. One that points him toward a great future, instead of apologizing for his past.

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