Eagles

5 Minutes with Roob: Lane Johnson, from digging graves to Eagles

5 Minutes with Roob: Lane Johnson, from digging graves to Eagles

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson:

Roob: In this segment, we like to talk about something about the player the audience might not know. Your first job in high school, tell us, was a little off of the wall?
 
Johnson: Yeah, my stepfather’s best friend was the mortician in town and I got a job digging graves. I would also mow around the funeral home. It is pretty weird getting into it, but it was an odd job.
 
Roob: It must have built up some upper-body strength for you?
 
Johnson: I mean, a lot of it you do with a tractor. Once you get down to the bottom, it is just rocks, so I had to get an anvil to chip it away.  
 
Roob: How far deep did you go? 
 
Johnson: If we were doing a vault, we would do about 6½ feet.
 
Roob: Did you ever get freaked out?
 
Johnson: I mean, there are some stories of other workers cutting close to another grave, but I don’t want to get into those details, too much information. 
 
Roob: Your hometown of Groveton, Texas, which had a population of like 12. Tell me about life growing up in a small eastern Texas town?
 
Johnson: That is exactly what it was. Every Friday night everybody was at the football game. It was a good place to get a peace of mind. I had a good school district notarized for good football in the past, so it was a good place to develop and grow.

Roob: Before you went to Oklahoma, you played JUCO for a year. What was that experience like and did it help you get prepared for what you saw Oklahoma?
 
Johnson: Kilgore College was mentally the toughest place that I have ever been. It is really hard because when you go there you aren’t guaranteed anything and if you get injured there goes your scholarship. It is a dog-eat-dog world.
 
Roob: A lot has been made about how you came out of college as a defensive lineman and a quarterback. Do you think that helped you in your ability to read defenses, your understanding of the game and grasping what defenses are doing?
 
Johnson: Like that old saying, knowledge is power. Being able to pick up on stuff later on in my career has been important. I have developed a lot more than I did early on and that all comes with experience. 
 
Roob: You guys got off to a great start in Washington. How important was it to get to 1-0? It feels like a very confident locker room right now.
 
Johnson: Yeah, it’s good. Washington is a difficult place to play. It is a place we haven’t won at in numerous seasons. We are erasing the game from our mind and focus our attention on to the next game because the season is a marathon. You can’t get too high on your horse.
 
Roob: Obviously, last year you had a lot on your mind. How much different is it to go out and play knowing that your days were numbered?
 
Johnson: I cherish every moment that I am on the field. I know a lot of people doubt my abilities. So I am going to go out and go after the best pass rushers week in and week out.
 
Roob: What was the 10-week suspension like? How did you get through that?
 
Johnson: It is so tough, it still lingers. I feel like it is my time to pay back the team and the community. I have taken a lot over the years and it is my time to give back, get established here and go play hard for my team. 
 
Roob: What did you learn from that experience?
 
Johnson: I am on thin ice. You need to have accountability and not blame others for your mistakes. It has made me a stronger person. 
 
Roob: How have the fans been with everything?
 
Johnson: Philly has been great. When I go on the road, I hear it. It has been a blessing in disguise. I am not glad it happened but it has made me a better person.
 
Roob: What is the key to going into Arrowhead Stadium, one of the loudest outdoor stadiums in the league? 
 
Johnson: We have to be crisp with our silent count. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot and we need to establish the run early. 
 
Roob: I have to ask you about Jason Peters since you have been a teammate of his for a couple of years. There will be a point where he is retired and in the Hall of Fame and you will be still playing. When all is said and done, and you look back at being around him and learning from him, how big has it been for you these first few years?
 
Johnson: I think Jason has helped develop me into the player that I am today. I had a slow start as a rookie and we would look back at mistakes I made to correct it. He is such a good person and is one of the few guys I love on this earth.

Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

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Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

The Eagles will have a new quarterback this weekend, but they might not be able to protect him as well as they hope. 

Starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski will officially be listed as questionable for Sunday's game because of an ankle injury. 

Wiz had to leave the Rams game in the first half and did not return. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. 

"We'll see where he's at today," head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. 

After Wisniewski came out of the Rams game, he was replaced by Chance Warmack, who was then replaced by Isaac Seumalo. 

It sounds like Warmack will have the first chance to play this weekend if Wisniewski can't go. 

"We've worked Chance at that position this week," Pederson said. "Isaac has obviously gotten some reps really at all the positions but that would be the most logical."

Seumalo actually began the season as the team's starting left guard after he won the position in the offseason. From there, Warmack got the first crack at replacing him when he was benched, but Warmack couldn't keep the job, eventually giving way to a rotation before Wisniewski simply took over. The line has been much better since Wiz took over the starting job in Week 3. 

Alshon Jeffery and Steven Means, who both missed Thursday's practice with illnesses, will be back on the practice field on Friday. Both should be fine for this weekend's game. 

The Eagles will practice outside in 28-degree weather on Friday as they prepare for Sunday's outdoor game at MetLife Stadium. 

No word on the condition of the recycling can Jason Kelce kicked inside the bubble after getting cleated on Thursday. At least the outdoor practice will give it another day of rest. 

Lucky for Nick Foles, his go-to guy is back

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USA Today Images

Lucky for Nick Foles, his go-to guy is back

Nick Foles won't see many familiar faces when he makes his first start for the Eagles in over three years, but at least one of his go-to receivers is still around.

Foles hasn't been in the lineup for a week, and the Eagles quarterback is already getting reinforcements. Zach Ertz cleared the concussion protocol on Wednesday and is expected to play against the Giants on Sunday, adding a valuable weapon to the offense, and reuniting a dynamic duo in the process.

"I feel good, ready to go," Ertz said Wednesday following his first practice back. "Tough week last week obviously not being able to play, but it was the right decision at the time and I'm excited for this week."

Ertz was a rookie when Foles took over as the starting quarterback in 2013, posting a modest 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. Yet Ertz really only began to flourish once the job belonged to Foles permanently.

The fifth-year tight end — perhaps on his way to his first Pro Bowl this season — even caught his first NFL touchdown from Foles.

"That was a long time ago, against the Raiders when he was fricking throwing everyone touchdowns," Ertz said this week. "We had a lot of good games together."

Their connection was almost instantaneous. At the time, Brent Celek was still the starter at tight end and getting the bulk of the snaps. Ertz still managed to catch five touchdowns in the Eagles' remaining nine games, including one against in the Saints in the playoffs. Ertz had five or more receptions three times during that span.

"That's my first year in the league, his second year in the league," Ertz said. "He was playing at an unbelievable level. He's still the same quarterback, and we're excited to have him."

Their rapport continued into 2014. Ertz had 25 receptions for 358 yards with two touchdowns when Foles was lost for the season with a broken collarbone.

Ertz acknowledged a quarterback change at this stage of the season can be difficult. Clearly, It's not uncharted territory, either. Even when Foles finally nailed down the job in '13, it was already Week 9, after weeks of going back and forth with Michael Vick.

It took time for the Eagles to make the right decision under center, but they eventually got it right, and it wound up being a historic season. Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game against the Raiders, and made NFL history at the end of the season with a 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The transition from Carson Wentz to Foles may not go that smoothly, but Ertz has reason to feel confident everything will be fine.

"It's definitely not the easiest thing switching quarterbacks, but there's a lot of familiarity with Nick," Ertz said. "The coaches understand what Nick does well. (Eagles coach Doug Pederson) has been with him for a long time.

"With Nick, he throws such an easy ball to catch that there's not a real adjustment period in terms of catching the ball. Some quarterbacks throw a tough ball to catch, but Nick's ball is really easy to catch and it makes it easy for receivers."

Foles already survived his first relief appearance, and that was without Ertz. With the tight end and security blanket inactive against the Rams, Foles was able to lead the Eagles on two scoring drives that ended with field goals, including the game-winner.

Again, that was sans Ertz. Imagine what Foles might be able to do with one of the Eagles' top receivers.

Ertz has 57 receptions for 663 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He was on pace for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns earlier in the campaign but missed a game for the concussion, and another with a hamstring.

Maybe Ertz can still get there over the final three weeks with Foles at the helm. He certainly isn't afraid to push the ball down the field anyway.

"He loves the slinging the ball," Ertz said. "That's what he's been doing his whole career.

"He's a great quarterback. We're excited to have him. I don't think there's anybody else in this situation that we would rather have."

Either way, Foles-to-Ertz is going to feel like a blast from the past. Maybe that connection can help keep the Eagles rolling in December and through the playoffs.