Eagles
USA Today Images

Lane Johnson ignoring trash talk, shutting up one top pass rusher after another

Lane Johnson thinks about his 10-game suspension from last season every day. Even if he didn't, his opponents wouldn't let him forget. 

On Sunday, before the game in Carson, California, one Chargers player made sure to get a dig in. 

Defensive tackle Damion Square greeted Johnson by calling him "Roid Boy." 

"He was joking and having fun," Johnson said of Square, who was suspended four games in 2016 for a PED violation himself after missing a random test. "It's still the stuff that will make you mad." 

Johnson uses moments like that as motivation — "Whenever we got on the field, we settled it," he said — but he definitely doesn't need any reminders. 

Johnson was suspended for 10 games last season for his second-career PED violation. In his absence, the Eagles crumbled and missed the playoffs after a 3-1 start with him. 

"I think about it every day," he said. "Every time I come in here, I think about all the games that I missed and let my teammates down. I try to give it back whenever I'm on the field or at practice. I just try to give it back whenever I can."

This is about the time the Eagles lost Johnson for those 10 games last season. And coincidentally — or maybe it's not a coincidence — they've started a second straight season at 3-1. 

But this time, Johnson doesn't appear to be going anywhere.  

Johnson has been playing at a high level throughout the first four games of the 2017 season, which shouldn't be much of a surprise. He was playing at a similar level when he was on the field in 2016. It's hard not to look at the correlation between Johnson's availability and the Eagles' record. 

Since the start of last year, the Eagles are 8-2 with Johnson and they're 2-8 without him. Johnson is well aware. 

"I think I help this team," he said. "I'm not trying to be arrogant. I think when I'm in there, I definitely help this team out. On the field and off the field, I like this group of guys. I see them as my brothers and guys that I enjoy being around and enjoy being friends with. So whenever I'm away from this place in the offseason, I just miss the guys and camaraderie we have here. It's something special."

So far this season, Johnson has played all 295 offensive snaps. He's given up just one sack, two QB hits and two QB hurries this season. 

That's even more impressive considering he's faced Ryan Kerrigan, Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. 

"Lane has played very well, like you said, against top-notch opponents every week and it's really going to continue throughout the whole year," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Looking at the schedule in advance, even before the season, we could see that was going to happen. So I imagine that was part of his motivation the whole offseason."

This Sunday, there's a good chance Johnson will see a healthy dose of Chandler Jones, who is averaging a sack per game through the first four. 

It doesn't get any easier from there. 

"I still got Von Miller and Khalil Mack, so it's just how it is this season," Johnson said. 

At 320-325 pounds, Johnson feels stronger than he's ever been before. And his offseason hand work has improved his pass protection. He was already one of the Eagles' best players and now he's convinced he's better. 

He just needs to stay on the field. He couldn't do that last year thanks to the suspension. 

Square isn't the only player who has chirped at Johnson about his suspensions. In fact, a couple years ago he remembers Jones, then with the Patriots, bringing it up when the two faced off. 

So far this season, though, Johnson has been able to shut everyone up. 

"Usually when you're trying to kick somebody's butt, if you're doing well, the talking kind of stops," Johnson said. "JPP before the game against the Giants was all dancing around, doing this, doing that. It all comes down to how you play on the field."