They've played for big-time college football programs. They've participated in Bowl games on national television. They've even taken the field in NFL preseason games. But none of that compares to running out onto the field in their first NFL regular season game under the lights on Monday Night Football. For the Eagles' top three draft picks, the moment they have been waiting for their entire lives is about to happen.
Lane Johnson has grabbed the attention of many Eagles fans during his first few months in Philadelphia. After being selected fourth overall in the NFL draft, Johnson impressed in the preseason, looking calm and collected in pass protection and menacing in run blocking. The Oklahoma product is looking forward to what his first NFL game has in store.
"It's primetime," Johnson said with a smile on his face. "I remember in college, you'd finish Monday practice and then you would get ready for Monday Night Football. Now it's my first time playing in a national (NFL) game, so I'm excited."
The identity and effectiveness of Chip Kelly's offense is what most outside observers are interested in when it comes to the Eagles season ahead. Johnson feels that the unit is primed to impress as the season gets underway.
"I think we definitely made some gains during the preseason," Johnson explained. "Whenever we start clicking on all cylinders, I think we'll move the ball a lot. With the offense it normally takes time to develop. With the defense, it usually comes along a lot quicker, so I think after a few games we'll really start rolling."
Like Johnson, second-round pick Zach Ertz is eager to set his NFL career in motion. Though he is excited to line up in a regular season game, Ertz believes that all of the jitters will be wiped away at the opening kickoff.
"Obviously there's going to be a lot of people watching, but it's just football and I'm just really looking forward to the game," Ertz said. "I don't expect it to be all too different from a normal game. It's still going to be football after that first whistle. All of the build-up to the game is a little different than what I'm used to, but even at Stanford we had a lot of hype around a lot of Bowl games."
Ertz is part of a tight end group that has the potential to be among the league's best. Ertz expects a lot from himself and the other players at his position and credits the group's work ethic for the lofty expectations.
"I think we put a lot of work into it and at the end of the day, it's going to be a lot of fun," said Ertz. "There's a lot of versatility between James (Casey), Brent (Celek) and myself, we've just worked so hard for this and we want to see how it's going to work out on Monday."
Switching sides of the ball, Bennie Logan is ready to help bolster the Eagles defensive line. Logan and company will be baptized by fire in their first full game working together, as Robert Griffin III and the Redskins' potent offense will be standing opposite them on FedEx Field. Logan will partially rely on past experiences to help him contain Washington's shifty signal-caller.
"I played against a lot of guys like that in college, and the thing about defending a dual-threat quarterback like that is maintaining your rush lanes," Logan explained. "You don't want to rush and get out of your lane because the first lane that he sees where he doesn't get his read, he's going to tuck the ball and run, so you have to make sure you're on patrol when you're rushing the passer… We have to be more disciplined going into this game."
The rookies know that it will be all business on the field come Monday night. Still, there is likely to be the realization that a lifetime of hard work has culminated in their first NFL game.
"There's going to be a lot of emotions running out there," Logan said. "(It's the) first Monday night, it's prime time, and it's a game that everybody looks forward to. Everybody's starting their week off with watching us play. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I want to be well prepared for it and just embrace every opportunity that I get to play in that game."
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