By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—We all figured the Eagles would go with an offensive lineman with the fourth pick in the draft because they certainly have a need for depth at that position.
And so with Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (Kansas City Chiefs) and Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville Jaguars) off the board with the first two picks and the Miami Dolphins taking Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan after a trade with the Oakland Raiders , the Eagles went with Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (6-foot-6, 303 pounds) as their No. 1 pick.
Considering the beating that both quarterbacks Michael Vick and Nick Foles took last season and Chip Kelly’s emphasis on creating a faster, more up-tempo offense, Johnson, who ran a 4.75 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combines, is definitely a logical choice for this team.
“I think they like effort and guys that can move,” Johnson said in a conference call with the Philadelphia media. “I don’t know what type of offense they’re going to do, but I know at Oregon they ran a very fast-paced offense that was very similar to Oklahoma and I think I fit in with what they need.”
If anything, Kelly feels a lot happier about the depth he has along the offensive than he was when he first came in, especially with Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce recovering from injuries.
“It’s ongoing process, but do I feel better? Yes,” Kelly said. “Will we continue to look at guys in this draft? Yes.”
Even more remarkable for Johnson to be picked as high as he was by the Eagles is that he just started playing on the offensive line during his junior year where he played right tackle after playing on the defensive line and tight end. Johnson was a high school quarterback when he came to Oklahoma.
“I think you see a guy who’s 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, he has 35-inch arms. He has an unbelievable athletic background to him,” Kelly said. “He just has such an upside that’s the thing that excites us. Football’s about winning the game up front and when you get a guy like that and to add the guys we have. It’s a great pick up for us.”
The common theme when it comes to Johnson is that he’s raw because of his inexperience at playing on the offensive line. But then again, the word “raw” was used a couple of years ago when the Eagles drafted Danny Watkins, who hasn’t amounted to much since he’s been with the Birds.
When people give players the raw tag that usually means he’s going to be a project who may not get a chance to play anytime soon. That’s a notion Kelly vehemently disagrees with when it comes to Johnson.
“He’ll determine that when he gets on the field,” Kelly said. “I’ve said since whenever I’ve coached. We don’t set the depth chart, you do. We don’t run a dictatorship, we don’t run a democracy, we run a meritocracy. If you merit playing time, then show us in practice that you merit it, show us in preseason games you merit it, we’ll put you on the field. He’ll get an opportunity to show what he can do.”
Coming into his junior year, Johnson , who was weighing about 280 pounds, was defensive end, but with injuries along the Sooners offensive line, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops persuaded Johnson to bulk up a few pounds and play on the line.
“From D-end to tackle, it was easy for him,” Stoops said. “He’s a great athlete, a big guy. We could tell within a couple of practices, this is going to fit him perfectly. I said to him right then, I said right then, ‘You’re going to be a first or second round pick within the first week or so.”
Stoops proved to be prophetic, but what Eagles fans want to know if Johnson can make that transition to the pro game as quick as he did at Oklahoma. Johnson believes that he will be a starter by the time the Eagles kickoff the regular season against the Washington Redskins.
“I think I am, yes sir,” Johnson said when asked if he thought he was ready to be a starter.