Philadelphia Eagles News

Offensive Line Is Making Fine Progress

Lane Johnson sees the difference, feels it, lives it. An offensive line that emerged limping from a loss to Washington has rebounded in impressive fashion the last two weeks.

"We're back in the hunt again. We're in a good place right now. If we can go get a win against Carolina, who is undefeated, I think that will be good for us heading into the bye week," Johnson said. "I think our health has gotten better, but also getting to play with (right guard Matt) Tobin has helped. The first week, against the Redskins, I wasn't really used to playing with (Dennis) Kelly, but Tobin is out there and he's a smart guy and he really helps me on the field. He can see what the defense is doing before they do it. The last two weeks I feel comfortable playing with him, trying to keep the ball rolling.

"Body feels good. I'm going out there playing solid in pass protection. I think Sam (Bradford) had a pretty good amount of time throwing the ball. When we create opportunities for him to feel comfortable in the pocket and extend plays, he's going to get the ball to the receivers."

The Eagles rolled up 519 offensive yards against New Orleans and then gained 425 more against New York on Monday night. The running game has come alive. Bradford has had good time in the pocket -- it's been that way all year, really -- and the offensive line deserves a lot of the credit.

Why the improvement? The line of scrimmage was a sore spot early in the season as the Eagles got off to an 0-2 start, and then sat at 1-3 after the loss at Washington. Right guard Andrew Gardner suffered a foot injury in that game that ultimately ended his season. Left tackle Jason Peters was hampered with a quad injury that caused him to miss reps throughout the first month of the season. Johnson was banged up with knee and ankle injuries.

Tobin replaced Gardner in the starting lineup, a couple of days of rest from training sessions helped Peters and Johnson recover physically, and here we are. The Eagles moved the football up and down the field against New Orleans, racking up 186 yards on the ground. Monday night's effort was not quite as dominating, but the Eagles still ran for 155 yards against what was the league's second-ranked run defense and gave Bradford a lot of time to set up and throw the football.

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Could it simply be that Peters and Johnson are healthier, and that Tobin's emergence, coupled with the improvement that comes with more reps on the training field, have made such an enormous difference?

"I think we just keep working every week and we're getting better. We're communicating better and everyone is on the same page," left guard Allen Barbre said. "We're getting settled in together and it's really helped. It's reps and it's everybody being on the same page and communication and understanding what the guy next to you is going to do and kind of understanding how it all fits together.

"No great secrets or magic. We're just playing better."

They're playing how they expected to play when the season opened. It just took some time to get to this point, for whatever reason. The questions in September came fast and furious as the offensive linemen stood up, man for man, and said it was more a matter of "execution" over "talent" and if the last two games mean anything, the players were correct. Peters has played like an All-Pro the last two weeks, hasn't missed a rep, and the rest of the line has followed his lead.

There has been progress made, but by no means are the Eagles satisfied. There is no such thing as "arrived." Carolina's defense waits on Sunday night with the intent of taking apart the Eagles' offense with a variety of pressure packages and linebackers who are destructive.

"They're really good and they give you a lot of different looks and they're aggressive," center Jason Kelce said. "We have a lot to study this week and to digest. It's a great challenge. But I think we've made some progress, which you can see by the way our offense is operating. It's evolving and improving, but we have work to do."

It helps that the edges are in good hands with Peters and Johnson playing at such a high level. They're healthy, they're confident and they have every reason to think things will get better and better as the Eagles build more continuity with their starting five.

"Big difference from the start of the season," Johnson said. "We just have to keep it going, keep it rolling and work together. I know I'm feeling so much better and I feel the difference. Jason had that quad injury, but he's good now and playing great football. I think that's been as key as anything. Jason is playing like Jason so that makes everybody else a better player on the line."

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