When Lane Johnson posted a photo of him wearing a dog mask, people thought he was sending a message. It said: The underdogs are back, baby! Hold that thought. Johnson laughed it off as just something “funny” he wanted to put out there. No one is comparing the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles to the 2017 championship team.
The three-time Pro Bowl right tackle said a buddy sent him that picture and there was no bigger meaning behind it. In fact, Johnson said he doesn’t even know what happened to that original dog mask. He thinks it might be buried in his basement somewhere.
“I don’t even know where the dog mask is, I gotta find it,” Johnson told reporters. “Not even really talking about it [being underdogs]. The big message is not becoming emotional with the game or where we’re at or anything really. It’s just one day at a time and that’s where we’re at.”
Johnson missed the first matchup with Tampa Bay on October 14, a 28-22 loss at Lincoln Financial Field. It was one of three contests he missed as he was battling mental health issues. In fact, the 31-year-old said he didn’t even watch the Buccaneers-Eagles game until weeks after it happened. That may help him calm everyone down and provide a nice outsider’s perspective.
“Trying not to be overly emotional in this game,” Johnson said. “Worry about our assignments and take it play-by-play and whenever you do that, I think you put yourself in the best position to win.”
The Eagles opened as seven-point underdogs against the Buccaneers with that number jumping up at 8.5. Masks or not, listen for some barking.
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Was First Tampa Bay Game Turning Point?
Some have pointed to Week 6 as the turning point in the Eagles’ season. It wasn’t long after that the team decided to start running the football and leaning on their dominant offensive line. The Eagles racked up 135 rushing yards on 32 attempts in Week 7, then went for 236 rushing yards on 42 attempts in Week 8.
Head coach Nick Sirianni didn’t want to use the word “turning point” to describe it, but the coaching staff sat down and re-evaluated everything after that first Tampa Bay game. The real turning point, according to players, was the plane ride home from Las Vegas following a 33-22 loss to the Raiders.
“I think what you saw is it started to turn that game, as far as our kind of who we were and what we were doing,” Sirianni said. “Not only in the run game but also in the passing game and the way we were doing some things in the passing game as well to make things a little bit easier for Jalen [Hurts] and to be able to see the things a little differently and our receivers, tight ends and running backs.”
Preparing for Todd Bowles, Bucs Defense
The Eagles are going to pound the rock on the ground. Everyone knows that. No one has been able to stop it. But the Buccaneers boast the NFL’s third-best rushing defense (first in the NFC) while surrendering just 1,573 rushing yards, or 87.4 yards per game.
Why are they so good on defense? For starters, their talent on the defensive line is unmatched. Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul are all impact players, plus pass-rushing outside linebacker Shaq Barrett. The unit is guided by Todd Bowles, one of the best defensive coordinators in football.
“I think he’s just really good at creating matchups. The NFL is always about creating mismatches,” Johnson said of Bowles. “As far as the D-line, it’s the best if not one of the best in the league, all the way across the board. Their D-linemen, edge rushers, linebacking corps, really top unit in this league so it’ll be a real big challenge for us.”
Barrett (knee) and Pierre-Paul (shoulder) have been limited participants this week at Buccaneers’ practice. Keep an eye on the injury report.