The 2020 football season was literally a tight-rope walk for Lane Johnson. The starting right tackle was a game-time decision every week as he attempted to fight through a serious left ankle injury.
Johnson, who was drafted fourth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, declared himself a “full go” for training camp and spring practices. His doctors cleared him for contact a few weeks ago and now it’s just a matter of mentally working past the ailment.
That’s no minor hurdle. Remember, Johnson first got injured in 2018 when he opted to play through a sprained MCL and a high ankle sprain. The fiery 31-year-old underwent successful tight-rope surgery back in December and then sat out the rest of the year.
The one-time All-Pro tackle updated reporters on his health on Thursday, saying he doesn’t anticipate any setbacks and is back to “feeling normal running” again. The only major area where Johnson needs to improve is with his range of motion, but the throbbing and swelling are finally gone. No small feat after the inside of that ankle collapsed last year.
“Probably the greatest limiting factor is trying to get that range of motion back that you had previously,” Johnson said. “You might not get it all the way back but really focusing on the range of motion and now I’m feeling normal running again, so really seeing no issues with it. Not really having to think about it anymore like I was.”
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Johnson, Offensive Line Hungry
Johnson officially started seven games in 2020 but he was in and out of the lineup a lot. He would start games and then not finish them. Somehow the 317-pounder still only surrendered one sack on 405 offensive snaps (via Pro Football Focus) in his injury-plagued season. The return of Johnson and starting guard Brandon Brooks on the right side of the Eagles’ offensive line is going to be a lethal combination in 2021.
“I feel like we’re in a spot where we’re having to prove ourselves,” Johnson said. “And when you get in your 30s, that’s when the doubt creeps in. Obviously, for a lot of guys, it’s the end of the road when they get in their late 20s, early 30s, so I feel a sense of urgency from the both of us to get out there and prove ourselves.”
Brooks is trying to return from a torn left Achilles tendon suffered prior to last year’s training camp. Making matters worse, it was his third significant injury in less than three years. Johnson indicated Brooks is hungry to prove his doubters wrong and so is the entire offensive line since they know their window for another Super Bowl ring is closing.
“Dealing with that ankle injury wasn’t good,” Johnson said. “But knowing I have two legs, I know I’ll be a different animal this year. Last year really wasn’t a great year for us, so we know we have a lot to prove, to the city, to ourselves. We know where we stand and really moving forward we got that fire in our belly and that’s where we need to be.”
Nick Sirianni, Landon Dickerson Early Impressions
Nick Sirianni’s energy is contagious. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie saw it during the interview process. The coaching staff has mentioned it on Zoom calls. And the veteran players have started chiming in about it one by one. Johnson described a first-year head coach who holds every guy on the roster accountable.
“I love it. One thing about him is he holds everybody accountable,” Johnson said. “So you really go back through practices … he’ll pull up guys that maybe aren’t executing well, maybe not hustling well. He’ll call out veteran guys, whoever, so that really sends a message to really everybody from the top down in the organization to get better.”
Another face making an early impression is second-round pick Landon Dickerson, their assumed heir apparent to Jason Kelce at center. The former Alabama standout is coming off the same tight-rope surgery that Johnson had done to repair a torn ACL in his left knee in last year’s SEC Championship Game.
“He’s extremely explosive, and I mean he’s just a big dude,” Johnson said. “You know 6-6, 330 [pounds], 340 [pounds], so big body. He’s going to be a great player for us, hopefully, sooner than later but we’ll see how his recovery is, his rehab goes, but he’s looking really good so far.”
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