Eagles

Eagles' Lane Johnson says he was 'speechless' after news of no fans in stadiums

Eagles' Lane Johnson says he was 'speechless' after news of no fans in stadiums

Philadelphia officials announced Tuesday that fans almost certainly won't be allowed at Eagles home games this season, an unfortunate result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and one that will make for a particularly unique 2020 NFL season.

Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson learned also learned about the news Tuesday, at the same time as fans. In an appearance Wednesday on NFL Network's Good Morning Football, Johnson said the news caught him by surprise:

I really don't know what to say - as far as what we do in practice - but we thrive on the fans' energy and their presence, so hearing the news yesterday was definitely shocking. As far as my reaction, I'm really speechless for what to say. It's a really weird situation for us.

Johnson's seen the highs and lows of home Eagles games during his seven years with the team, but recent history suggests a fan-less stadium will probably hurt the Birds' home field advantage.

The Eagles have the fourth-best home record in the NFL since Doug Pederson took over as head coach in 2016, going 25-10 at the Linc. Only the Patriots, Vikings, and Packers have better home records in that time span.

And a guy like Johnson, one of the team's emotional leaders, formed a pretty strong bond with the fanbase, like when he and Chris Long started the underdog mask craze en route to the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl. The player-fan connection is one of the intangible parts of live football games that will be missing this year.

Johnson also reacted to Tuesday's other Eagles news, Jason Peters returning to Philadelphia on a one-year deal to play right guard:

You can't really replace a Brandon Brooks, who's the best guard in the league, but this has been in the works, I guess, for a few weeks. They finally worked out the details, and got the big man back. I'm excited, man. I'm excited to have him next to me, a guy that I've looked up to and really has been my mentor ever since coming into the league. So it's huge for us.

Johnson was one of many Eagles players thrilled to see Peters back for another year in Philadelphia.

The Eagles' first home game of the 2020 regular season is scheduled for Sept. 20 against the Rams. We'll see what the offense, and the stadium, looks like.

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What George Kittle’s landmark contract means for Zach Ertz and Eagles

What George Kittle’s landmark contract means for Zach Ertz and Eagles

George Kittle didn’t just reset the tight end market on Thursday. He obliterated it. 

And you can bet Zach Ertz is taking note. 

The 49ers and Kittle just agreed to a groundbreaking contract for the All-Pro tight end that comes with an average of $15 million per season. 

Ertz, 29, is still under contract through the 2021 season but is also in line for a contract extension of his own. And while you might not think he deserves as much money as Kittle or even Travis Kelce (who is also in line for an extension), Ertz might think so. 

Check out what Ertz said about the comparisons to Kittle and Kelce last week: 

I do consider myself in that upper echelon of guys, in that same tier with all those guys,” Ertz said last Friday. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think a lot of guys in this building feel the same way about me. I’m never in the business of comparing people. I think all three of us are at the top of our games, and I think we’re all perfect in the offense that we play in, honestly. I think we all have unique skill sets. We’re all very different, with some similarities. But overall I don’t think my game is any less than any of their games.

We’ll eventually find out if the front office agrees with him. Because the Eagles are going to face a really critical decision soon regarding Ertz. And the existence of Dallas Goedert only adds more layers to this situation. 

Ertz, 29, signed an extension in 2016 that gave him an average per year of $8.5 million. While he might not get to the $15 APY that Kittle just got, he’s going to aim to be in that area. That’s the natural progression of contracts in the NFL. My guess is he gets in the $11-13 million per season range, which is still a really big investment on a player who will likely be over 30 when that deal happens. 

For a long time, the market for tight ends has been really stagnant. The Jimmy Graham $10 million APY had been the benchmark until Austin Hooper passed that with a $10.5 APY this offseason. Now, Kittle has demolished that. 

It’s also worth noting that NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported earlier this offseason that Ertz actually turned down a deal during the 2019 season that was more lucrative than the deal Hooper signed. That should give you an idea of Ertz’s mindset. (But it was the right decision; let Kittle or Kelce reset the market.) 

There’s no questioning what Ertz has meant to the Eagles offense. He’s been their leading receiver in each of the last four seasons and this is the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl! He’s in the middle of an absolutely tremendous career. 

Ertz last week emphasized his desire to play for the Eagles for his entire career. But it’s never that simple. 

Remember, Goedert is still just 25, he has two more years left on his rookie contract and is already a top 10 tight end in the NFL. And while Ertz has put up incredible — like Hall of Fame — receiving numbers, Goedert is definitely a more well-rounded player. Heck, ProFootballFocus actually ranked Goedert ahead of Ertz for the 2020 season.

The one thing that seems clear is that it’s going to be really hard to keep both talented tight ends long-term. 

If the Eagles want to keep Ertz, they’re going to have to give him a huge contract. This Kittle deal just created some framework and a potential obstacle. 

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Doug Pederson hints at big role for Greg Ward Jr. with Eagles this season  

Doug Pederson hints at big role for Greg Ward Jr. with Eagles this season  

Greg Ward Jr. became a great story for the Eagles last season, when he began the year on the practice squad and ended up being their best receiver down the stretch. 

But is he more than a good story? 

Doug Pederson seems to think so. 

The one thing now as he goes into this season, he's in that rotation, in that starting mix for us,” Pederson said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. “It's just a matter of him embracing every day, getting better. Being a former quarterback, he understands our offense. Being in our offense, he knows the concepts and the routes. He and Carson (Wentz) have a really good feel for one another.

“I think for him now it's just a matter of continuing to get better each and every day and putting in the work. We expect some really big things from Greg. He can also be a leader. He can be a leader of that group. Him and DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, these guys, they can be leaders now and mentors to these young players.

In one year’s time, Ward has gone from practice squad player to being a leader in a wide receiver room that includes three draft picks, an undrafted rookie and a second-year draft pick. 

Ward, 25, is technically in Year 4 of his NFL career but he didn’t get a chance to play until the 2019 season and even then he didn’t play until November. 

Ward finished last season with 28 catches for 254 yards and a game-winning touchdown in a huge contest against Washington. 

Maybe Ward will never become a star player in the NFL, but he’s sure-handed, dependable and earned the trust of his quarterback and coaching staff last season. 

If you look at the Eagles’ group of receivers, Ward is probably the top candidate to win the slot job. DeSean Jackson is going to be the starting Z receiver and at the X the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Rookie 1st-round pick Jalen Reagor is learning both outside spots. 

Eventually, could Reagor play in the slot? Absolutely. In fact, I’d love to see him in there because he’d bring an explosiveness to the position that Ward probably can’t offer. 

But Ward is going to play a lot in 2020. He’s going to have a chance to become more than a great story. 

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