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

usa-lane-johnson.jpg
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."

Chargers fans didn't even want to sit in their seats during game vs. Eagles

Chargers fans didn't even want to sit in their seats during game vs. Eagles

You may not realize this after Sunday, but Chargers fans are not merely figments of our Philadelphia sports imagination! They really do exist!

And if there is an ounce of sympathy in you, you can't help but feel bad for those Chargers fans who really do care about their team.

Check out this video from the San Diego Union-Tribune, on location at the StubHub Center. It's just the saddest.

OK, the first dude didn't want to sit in his seats that he paid his hard-earned money for because he was getting swallowed whole by screaming (and assumed well-behaved!) Eagles fans. He chose rather to stand in the not-so-upper level and barely see his Chargers play than be drowned out by Eagles fans.

"Why am I up here?"

Poor guy.

Of course Eagles fans were interviewed, too. I mean, how could they not have been, it was like a 26,990-10 ratio.

And of course they had no shame. Bless them.

But still, the video, no matter how elated or depressed it makes you, is worth checking out.

It's reminder that if you think you have it bad, there's almost always a worse-off fan base out there.

Oozing with confidence, Jake Elliott has perfect afternoon vs. Chargers

Oozing with confidence, Jake Elliott has perfect afternoon vs. Chargers

CARSON, Calif. — Jake Elliott became a hero in Philadelphia last week when he drilled a 61-yarder to beat the Giants as time expired. That's awfully hard to top. 

So how did he follow it up? 

A perfect afternoon. 

The rookie went 4 for 4 on field goal attempts, 2 for 2 on extra points and booted all seven of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks in the Eagles' 26-24 win over the Chargers at StubHub Center on Sunday afternoon. 

It's clear the young kicker is oozing with confidence. And it doesn't hurt that the team is proving how much it trusts him. 

"I definitely enjoy that they have a little bit of confidence in me, sending me out for all those kicks," Elliott said. "Those are kicks that we have to make. All these games are close, it's the National Football League. Every point matters." 

As a former head coach in Philadelphia once said infamously, "you can do the math." The Eagles won by two points on Sunday; Elliott scored 14. 

The rookie kicker, whom the Eagles signed after Caleb Sturgis went down with a hip injury in Week 1, made field goals from 45, 40, 53 and 47 yards on Sunday. 

It was the first time an Eagles kicker attempted four 40-yard field goals in a game since 2009. And it was the first time an Eagles kicker made four from 40-plus since Oct. 3, 2004, when David Akers went 4 for 5 on such attempts. 

“Jake was huge again today," Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Last week, we know what Jake did and what he accomplished. Four-of-four today and two-for-two [extra] points. They weren’t easy field goals either. It was a 50-yard and some 40-something, but those are huge points in two-point ball game. Hats off to Jake again. We are thrilled about that game.”

Elliott was in a little bit of an unusual situation last week. He wanted to parlay his big franchise-record kick into momentum going forward, but as a kicker, he knew he had to also move past it and re-focus. It was a little bit of a tightrope act. 

Ultimately, he tried to stay off social media and avoid the buzz, although at times, the buzz was unavoidable. 

"The next kick is the most important one," Elliott said, repeating a mantra he's probably heard thousands of times in his life. 

Elliott's time with the Eagles actually didn't get off to a great start. While he went 2 for 3 in his first game against the Chiefs, he missed a 30-yard chip shot. And then to start the Giants game, he missed a 52-yarder. 

Had Elliott missed the 46-yard field goal with 51 seconds left to tie that Giants game, he would have been 2 for 5 and there's a chance the Eagles might have given up on him. After all, they did work out three kickers before they signed him off the Bengals' practice squad.

But Elliott didn't miss that 46-yarder. He made it, which started a streak of six straight makes, all from 40 yards or farther. 

Before the Kansas City game, the first game of Elliott's career, head coach Doug Pederson was asked if having Elliott instead of Sturgis would change his decision-making during games. Pederson said it wouldn't. He said he trusted his new kicker. That trust is now paying off. 

"He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and he has confidence," Pederson said. "That’s what you want out of your kicker. Obviously, we have to do a better job when we get down inside that 30-yard line, but coming away with three points from him; big leg. I really have no hesitation putting him out there in those longer kick situations.”

Elliott has now made two field goals from 53 yards or farther. Just two kickers in Eagles history have more. David Akers made three in 188 career games and Sturgis has three in 30 games. Elliott has two in three games. 

Maybe it's still too early to tell, but it looks like the Eagles might have found their kicker of the future. It's not that Sturgis wasn't good; he was a pretty good kicker too. But he might end up doomed to a Wally Pipp fate. 

Elliott has been that impressive so far. On Sunday, he followed up the longest — and perhaps the most clutch — kick in franchise history with a perfect performance in a two-point road win. 

"It felt good," said the kicker, cool, calm and collected. "Went out there with a lot of confidence. Kicking in front of that crowd we had today was pretty cool. An away game, having mostly Eagles fans was a lot of fun. Came out there and had a lot of confidence. Rick (Lovato) and Donnie (Jones) did a heck of a job again. Try to keep it going."