Tag Archives: Lane Johnson

The Other Guys The Eagles Drafted

7 May

Sure, Carson Wentz got a lot of the attention as the Philadelphia Eagles first round draft pick. But the team picked up a few other pieces in the 2016 NFL Draft.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Wendell Smallwood

Can Wendell Small be the next great running back for the Eagles. Photo by wvusports.com

The 2016 NFL Draft will obviously be remembered for the Philadelphia Eagles wheeling and dealing into the No. 2 spot to get quarterback Carson Wentz, the man they hope will be the Birds next franchise quarterback.

But I thought that there were a few more things that the Eagles needed to do in the draft on the offensive side of the ball in addition to getting a new number one quarterback.

I think they addressed the things that they needed. The only problem is, we won’t really know for quite some time how good the pieces they picked up in the draft will be.

That said, I thought the Eagles did a good job of adding some depth on their offensive line and finding a running back that would fit head coach Doug Pederson’s scheme.

Perhaps the most intriguing Eagles draft  pick in is former West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (5-11, 208).  When you look at what he did at the collegiate level, Smallwood, a back similar to the Kansas City Chiefs Jamaal Charles is an ideal fit for Pederson’s version of the West Coast offense.

In 2015, Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing, gaining 1,512 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yard per carry and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Smallwood also caught 26 passes for 160 yards and has experience as a pass blocker.

Smallwood has a good shot to get some playing time alongside guys like Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. He’s definitely a good three-down back and reminds me of, dare I say, LeSean McCoy.

But the downside for Smallwood, a native Wilmington, Delaware, is that he’s had some off-field incidents that have raised more than a few eyebrows. In July 2014, he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a witness change her story implicating a friend in a robbery attempt.  No charges were filed against Smallwood. He’s also made a few offensive statements on social media.

But from most accounts and from the Eagles extensive background checks, Smallwood is a mature young man who has stayed out of trouble since  and is looking to do the right thing.

“We spent a lot of time with him and we feel that this is a good kid,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles vice president of football operations. “He’s got to prove it on and off the field, but we have no doubts about what kind of player and person he is.”

After former coach Chip Kelly inexplicably refused to bring in more offensive linemen last season via the draft last season, Pederson and Roseman made sure that the Birds brought in some beef on the offensive line after the team struggled in that department last year.

Third round draft pick Isaac Seumalo (6-4, 303) played just about every position on the offensive line during his collegiate career at Oregon State.  He will probably challenge Allen Barbre for the left guard spot and some observers are saying that Seumalo could be the team’s next center.

According to Pro Football Focus.com, Seumalo is a solid pass protect who can locate and knock down opposing defenders while on the move. More importantly, Seumalo is probably better than anyone the Eagles currently have on the roster.

Former TCU tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (6-6, 320), is big enough to block out the sun and most opposing defenders. He has played at both left and the right tackle. He will probably back up veteran Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters, who’s at the tail end of his career.

Vaitai will eventually be playing at one of those tackle positions if Peters retires or gets hurt during the season. If that does happen, Vaitai would move to the right tackle slot while Lane Johnson would take Peters’s spot.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse here, Vaitai and Seumalo both have to show that they can beat out guys who are already immersed in the Eagles offensive scheme.

But at the end of the day, having solid depth at the offensive line position can only help an offense that couldn’t block many people last year.

 

 

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Truly Offensive: The New-Look Philadelphia Eagles are 0-2 With an Offense That’s Bringing New Meaning to the Term

24 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

When Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly shipped LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams and gave an unceremonious heave-ho to Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis, the warning from fans and the media was “You’d better replace them with something better…”

Did the Birds do that?

If the last two games are any indication, the answer has to be an emphatic Hell No!

After a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons and the debacle that was last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are hoping to redeem themselves on Sunday at MetLife Stadium when they take on a 2-0 New York Jets squad.

The big question that everyone is asking now is whether or not the Eagles offensive line can protect quarterback Sam Bradford and open up the kinds of holes that will allow running back DeMarco Murray, who was held to two yards on 13 carries and has only 11 yards after two games this season.

Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014 with over 1,800 yards.

The Eagles offensive line got beat down by the Cowboys front seven that had seven tackles for a loss of yardage. A quick Dallas defense outmuscled center Jason Kelce, guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner and tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.

Two plays, in particular, symbolized the Eagles’ frustrations.

On a running play late in the first quarter, Murray lost two yards when Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain got into the Eagles backfield by slicing between Kelce and Gardner. The penetration forced Murray to go right where he was taken down by linebacker Sean Lee.

Perhaps the most blatant example of how poorly the offensive line performed in the running game was the Eagles first possession of the third quarter. On first and 10 from the Birds 32, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence streaked past tight end Brent Celek and dropped Murray for a six-yard loss.

On the next play, Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey sped past Peters and tackled Murray for a loss of another five yards. No matter how you slice it, Dallas owned the trenches and the Eagles didn’t.

“There were a couple times … when the linebacker level would shoot through and then kind of disrupt and knock our guys off of our double teams,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “Then there were other times when we got split, whether it be the double team or the edge block with the tight end. So there was no consistent one reason. It’s just areas where if we just block better, I think we’ll get it fixed.”

With an even better Jets defense on the horizon, the Eagles have to do something, anything to fix the offensive line.

“We just couldn’t get things going at different times. We have to be better, no matter what the play calls are,” Murray said after the game. “I think individually and collectively, as an offense, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror, watch the film and go on from there.”

The Eagles coaches have been saying that their issues in the offensive line can be fixed by the offensive line simply executing and doing their jobs. I don’t know if it’s really as simple as that. Not the way they were dominated by Dallas.
I don’t pretend to be an offensive coordinator, but from what I saw on the film, the Cowboys had the Eagles number. Usually, when the middle is jammed in Kelly’s offense, the running backs can find a cut back lane and bounce it to the outside.

The Cowboys, especially linebacker Sean Lee, had the edges covered. Lee had two tackles for a loss as a result. It was that kind of a day for the Eagles.

Now Kelly has to figure out a way for his offense to get its mojo back because if it doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year for Eagles fans.

Injury-Riddled Offensive Line Catches up to Birds in Loss to Niners

30 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Looking from afar at the score of the Eagles 26-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, you might think it was a close exciting game by two dynamic offenses.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry in 2014 after leading the NFL in rushing in 2013. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry in 2014 after leading the NFL in rushing in 2013. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Instead, the Eagles portion of the final score hid the lack of production of an offense that produced zero points, crossed midfield just once, committed four turnovers and could not run or throw the football.

If wasn’t for a blocked punt for a touchdown, an 82-yard punt return by Darren Sproles and an interception for a touchdown by safety Malcolm Jenkins, it would have been a 26-0 49ers shutout.

The Eagles came into the game missing three offensive linemen due to injury and suspension and they were exposed by a 49ers defense that put pressure on quarterback Nick Foles, who had problems finding his receivers. He was sacked just once, but most of the day avoiding rushers.

When you have a patchwork offensive line, what happened on Sunday is inevitable and the Eagles lost this game in the trenches and they could not get anything going throughout the game.

After passing for over 300 yards in his first three games, Foles was 21-of-43 for 195 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Meanwhile, the struggles of the Eagles running game continued as LeSean McCoy gained just 17 yards on 10 carries.

For the game, the Eagles had just 213 yards of offense after averaging over 400 in their first three games. Coming into the next to the last drive of the game, the Eagles had not crossed midfield and had just 127 yards of offense.

Incredibly, for all those struggles on offense, the Eagles still had a chance to win the game.

When the Birds finally crossed fifty, they moved the ball to the 49ers one-yard line with two-minutes left after a five-yard run by McCoy from the six. The Eagles were one yard from pulling out a win. They had two downs to get one yard.

Questionable Play Calling on the Goal Line

You would think Chip Kelly would have called at least one running play in that sequence, especially with three time outs. With the way the running game was going, Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had no confidence in letting McCoy getting the ball here.

If you saw the television replay on the third and goal play, the 49ers linebackers were about two or three yards behind the defensive line and looked like they were playing to defend the pass.

A more experienced quarterback sees that and calls a running play or maybe Kelly and his offensive coordinator see this and signals the quarterback to call a running back.

If the Birds coaches didn’t see it, FOX color analyst Troy Aikman saw it and pointed out how far the linebackers were away from the line during the replay of Foles incomplete pass to tight end Brent Celek and said the Eagles should have considered running the ball there.

Even if the Birds didn’t get in the end zone running the ball in that situation, the threat to run on fourth down might have had the 49ers creeping their linebackers and safeties close to the line. Instead, the Niners, knowing the Eagles were going to pass, kept their linebackers and defensive backs covering the end zone.

Those two errant passes yielded nothing and they turned the ball over on downs. After the 49ers were forced to punt, the Eagles had another chance to win the game.

Unfortunately, the Eagles couldn’t get beyond their own 31 and on fourth and 24, Foles threw his second interception to end the game.

Last year, the Eagles had a healthy offensive lineman and they were among the league’s best rushing teams. This season that’s not the case with guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce on the injured list and Lane Johnson out due to suspension.

The good news for the Birds is that they get Johnson back at the right tackle position this week. But will it help the Birds to get better in the trenches to open holes for McCoy and to enable Foles to find open receivers downfield?

With the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys starting to play well, the Eagles need to figure out a way for that line to get better.

Eagles Selection Of Johnson a Good Choice

26 Apr
Eagles No. 1 draft pick Lane Johnson hopes to fit in with head coach Chip Kelly's offense.

Eagles No. 1 draft pick Lane Johnson hopes to fit in with head coach Chip Kelly’s offense.

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.

With the Fourth Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft…the Philadelphia Eagles Pick…?

7 Mar
Texas A&M offensive tackle might be the first offensive lineman taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Texas A&M offensive tackle might be the first offensive lineman taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—For an Eagles squad that has far too many holes on both sides of the ball, the major question that fans have is what will the Birds do with the fourth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft?

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman will probably give you the best athlete available line. In other years when the Birds were winning on a consistent basis, that might be an acceptable answer to fans.

The stark reality is that any pick the Birds make in the draft, whether it’s the first round or the seventh round, will more than likely fill a need on a team that had more than its share of flaws in 2012.

On offense, the Eagles are going to need more bodies to protect Michael Vick or whoever wins the starting job at quarterback. Last season, Eagles quarterbacks were hit 118 times and sacked 48 times. Even with left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd Herremans coming back from injuries, the Eagles definitely need some depth in the offensive line.

If you’ve learned anything from last season, you can never have too many offensive linemen. The Eagles have their eye on Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (6-foot-6, 306 pounds).   The word on Joeckel is that he’s a good pass protector who plays fast and has quick feet.

In Kelly’s hurry-up read option scheme, the Eagles are going to need their lineman to move quickly to the line of scrimmage and to get out attack opposing defenders.

“You’ve got to move. You’ve got to be able to play in space against some really, really good defensive linemen in this league,” Kelly told PhiladelphiaEagles.com .

Before the Kansas City Chiefs, who have the No. 1 pick, put the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert, draft experts said Joeckel would be drafted by the Chiefs.  Some are speculating the Chiefs are going to go defense in the first round and pick up Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

But new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has always had an affinity for offensive lineman, so he might pull the trigger on Joeckel. If he does, there are some other linemen that Kelly and Roseman might consider if Joeckel is not available.

Alabama's Chance Warmack could help the Eagles improve their running game.

Alabama’s Chance Warmack could help the Eagles improve their running game.

Alabama guard Chance Warmack (6-2, 325) might arguably be the best guard in this draft. This is a player who cleared the way for 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, all of whom were either All-Americans or All Southeastern Conference.

The various mock drafts and scouting websites are saying Warmack is an athletic guard who is an excellent run blocker and knows how to lock in on a defender and finish him off. Warmack is also athletic enough to be a good pass protector and is quick on his feet.

Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (6-7, 300) may not have the name recognition like his contemporaries from the big schools. But he was an Associated Press Third-Team All-American as a left tackle. The word on Fisher is that he is a good run blocker and pass protector, who does a good job mirroring opposing pass rushers.

Fisher’s weakness is that he may lack upper body strength and had gotten beaten by defensive ends who bull-rushed him during practices at the Senior Bowl.

Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (6-7, 303) raised eyes of some NFL scout when he ran a 4.75 40-yard dash. Not bad for a guy his size and seems to be quick enough for Kelly’s quick paced offensive scheme.

While the scouts like his upside in terms of his ability to pass block and ability to create space in the running game, Johnson needs to put on a few more pounds and needs to learn to keep his feet under him.

Considering that he’s only played on the offensive line for the last two seasons after playing quarterback in high school and tight end and defensive end during his first two years of college ball, he hasn’t been half bad on the offensive line. I’m not certain you take him in the first round, but he has good upside.

Utah's Star Lotulelei has the ability to take on two blockers.

Utah’s Star Lotulelei has the ability to take on two blockers.

On defense, Lotulelei, if he’s still available by the fourth pick, could be the Eagles version of Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. At 6-4, 325 pounds, Lotulelei has the potential to plug up an opposing team’s running game. Last season at Utah, Lotulelei had 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, four pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

If the Chiefs select Lotulelei with the first pick, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) is the No. 1 linebacker on all the mock drafts.  In 2012, Jones led the nation in sacks with 14.5, tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven).

For an Eagles team that was near the bottom of the league in turnovers forced, Jones could be the answer in terms of having a playmaker on defense. The Eagles haven’t had a true enforcer from the outside linebacker spot since Seth Joyner .

Defensive end Dion Jordan, who played for Kelly at Oregon, can also start at the outside linebacker spot. At 6-6, 248 pounds, Jordan may have to put on a few pounds, but could be a solid outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

During his senior year with the Ducks, Jordan had 44 tackles (10 for loss) and five sacks. He also has the ability to drop back in pass coverage. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Jordan ran a 4.6 40-yard dash.