Lane Johnson vs. Ryan Kerrigan a major key for Eagles in Week 1

Lane Johnson vs. Ryan Kerrigan a major key for Eagles in Week 1

Lane Johnson could only watch from home as Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan almost single-handedly beat the Eagles in 2016 — not once, but twice.

“It still affects me today,” Johnson said Wednesday after practice. “It just motivates me to go out there and go play even harder this year.”

Johnson missed both dates with Washington last season because of a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The result was nothing less than disastrous for the Eagles, who were suddenly rendered powerless to stop one of the NFC East’s most formidable pass rushers.

With Halapoulivaati Vaitai making his first professional start in place of Johnson at right tackle, Kerrigan registered 2½ sacks and five quarterback hits in the first meeting alone. The second time around, Kerrigan went around Matt Tobin and knocked the ball free from Carson Wentz in the final minute, the ensuing turnover closing the book on a late Eagles’ rally.

Kudos to Kerrigan, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, but this was no coincidence. The Eagles finished the season with a 5-1 record when Johnson was in the lineup, and went 2-8 without.

“All last season, you can put a lot of the losses on me not being with the team,” Johnson said. “It's a new year this year, so we're just ready to get started off the right way.”

Johnson just spent the last 13 months discussing how helpless he felt throughout this ordeal. After waiting nine weeks from the time word got out about the suspension until learning his fate, Johnson was struck with the maximum ban four games into the Eagles’ season. By the time he returned, the team was eliminated from playoff contention. To this day, Johnson has an ongoing lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Who can blame the guy for being excited about the opportunity to finally turn the page? The key for Johnson will be to not get too excited.

“I really don't like getting too hyped for a game,” Johnson said. “Usually, if you get too emotional, you don't play as well as what you want. Try to keep it calm, and just go out there and go play.”

The thing is, Johnson’s track record against Kerrigan is kind of spotty. The last time the two faced off in 2015, Kerrigan was not credited with making a single play in the Eagles’ backfield. Earlier that same season, Kerrigan recorded one sack and two tackles for loss. In the five games the two have gone head-to-head, Kerrigan has three sacks and four tackles for loss.

“Kerrigan has always been a good opponent for me,” Johnson said. “A guy that tries hard every play, great motor, so it's going to be a challenge.”

Some give and take is to be expected. After all, Kerrigan is up to 58½ sacks over his six-year career.

“He’s a great player,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He's a high-motor guy, relentless finish. That's what you have to identify with him.

“To have Lane back, a little confidence there. Should be a good matchup all day, and just have to give the guy respect. He's a good pass rusher.”

Wentz is certainly breathing a little easier knowing Johnson will be in there this time around. By the time injuries had taken their toll on the offensive line, the Eagles were down to their fourth right tackle in the waning moments of their most recent game against Washington.

“We’re excited for Lane to be back,” Wentz said. “We’re excited for, thankfully, right now where we’re at, the entire O-line is healthy. That’s a big perk. A big strongpoint of our offense is that O-line and those big boys up front, so having Lane back, having everybody be healthy to start the year is exciting.

“He’s definitely a rock-solid guy at right tackle, so it will be good to have him.”

Nobody feels worse about Johnson’s suspension than him — except maybe Wentz, who bore the brunt of that absence on the football field. Thankfully for Johnson, the time for apologizing is finally over, and he can make up for it by going out and keeping his quarterback upright.

Atonement begins Week 1 with keeping Kerrigan at bay, but Johnson realizes it’s going to take more than one game to truly make amends.

“This whole season is meaningful to me,” Johnson said. “I’ve let down this team too many times. I’m on a thin leash here, so I need to go out and go play well and just be a good teammate.”

Eagles' Super Bowl odds dip after Carson Wentz injury

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Eagles' Super Bowl odds dip after Carson Wentz injury

Carson Wentz's injury is obviously a blow to the Eagles, but the oddsmakers out in Vegas still like them ... just not as much as the Vikings.

The Birds, who began last week as 6/1 favorites in the NFC, now sit at 9/1 according to Bovada after the costly division-clinching win over the Rams in LA on Sunday that cost Wentz his season with a torn left ACL.

While not a huge hit, the dip in odds still dropped the Eagles from the favorites perch in the NFC. Now Minnesota is the conference favorite at 8/1. The Vikings, who lost to Carolina on Sunday, were 17/2 at the beginning of last week.

So, if we read into the odds, the Wentz injury, according to oddsmakers, helps the Vikings more than it hurts the Eagles. Super Bowl 52, of course, will be held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the Vikings.

The Rams (12/1 to 16/1) and Saints (10/1 to 14/1) also saw drops this week after losses. The Packers saw the biggest jump in the NFC, going from 33-1 to 18-1 after an OT win and Cleveland and with Aaron Rodgers return on the horizon.

Heading into next week's game at the Giants, the Eagles sit as the top seed in the NFC with the Vikings, Rams and Saints following in order.

Nightmare confirmed: Carson Wentz has torn ACL

Nightmare confirmed: Carson Wentz has torn ACL

Doug Pederson took to the lectern at the NovaCare Complex early Monday afternoon to deliver the horrible, yet inevitable, news the entire city hoped would never come. 

Carson Wentz did indeed tear his left ACL. 

His magical 2017 season is over. 

From the time Wentz walked off the field with a knee injury late in the third quarter on Sunday afternoon, some fans immediately gave into the gloom, while others tried to hold out hope. 

In the end, everyone is disappointed. 

"I hate it for Carson Wentz," Pederson said. "I hate it for the season that he's been having. But at the same time, it's been the next-man-up mentality and that's how we approach it." 

Pederson claimed he believes his team can overcome this monumental loss. He believes in Nick Foles, who will now take over as the team's starting quarterback. 

But for a team that has already suffered huge losses this season, this one hurts the most. Wentz had been playing at an MVP level in his second NFL season and just broke the Eagles' record for touchdown passes in a season. 

That record 33rd touchdown pass came four plays after Wentz tore his left ACL on a play where he dove into the end zone for a touchdown that was called back. Wentz finished the drive even with the significant injury and his toughness left his teammates in awe (see story).

Pederson said that while watching the film of that diving play, it appeared Wentz actually suffered the torn ACL before the dive — it looked like a non-contact injury. 

The FOX game broadcast shows how limited Wentz's mobility was for those next four plays. After he threw the touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery, Wentz didn't even celebrate with his teammates as he typically would; he simply walked off the field. 

Pederson found out the bad news on Monday morning but said a surgery date was not yet discussed, although players often have to wait for swelling to subside before going under the knife. Pederson said the report he was given said there was damage only to the ACL, no other ligaments. 

The head coach declined to give any type of timetable for Wentz's return. But if Wentz heals at the normal rate of an NFL athlete, there's a good chance he'll miss some time during spring workouts next offseason and possibly even training camp. 

Foles will become the Eagles' starting quarterback, while third-stringer Nate Sudfeld will be promoted to backup. Pederson expects Wentz — who greeted his teammates in the locker room after Sunday's win — will still be around the team as much as he can. 

"A lot like Jordan Hicks and Jason Peters and these guys," Pederson said. "He can be around and be in the meeting room. He can watch the tape. Even as much as being there on game day and being another set of eyes for the quarterbacks and Nick. And having his input, having him around the guys too would be a big boost. And obviously, an opportunity for him now to put the coaching hat on and to help Nick."