Kerryon Johnson played big-time college football at Auburn, he’s entering his fourth NFL season and he even broke a couple Lions franchise records. So he’s seen a lot over the years.
But he’s never seen anything like Jordan Mailata.
Johnson, the veteran running back the Eagles claimed off the waiver wire in May, brought up Mailata on his own when chatting with some writers after practice on Wednesday.
And while he was definitely not trying to make a statement on the Mailata-Andre Dillard left tackle competition, he did without even trying.
“Honestly, literally, some (defensive) guys just disappear behind him," Johnson said. "You feel really safe, because when you're that big, hell, you can damn near miss a block and still block two people.”
Mailata, the Eagles’ 7th-round pick in 2018, started 10 games at left tackle last year after Dillard, the 1st-round pick in 2019, suffered a season-ending biceps injury. Dillard started three games at left tackle as a rookie (and one at RT).
The two are battling for the starting job this summer, but Mailata – drafted 211 spots later – has a huge early lead.
Johnson wasn’t asked about the competition, but he was so effusive in his praise of Mailata – without mentioning Dillard – it was definitely revealing.
“He's extremely athletic,” Johnson when asked specifically about Mailata. “For him to be that big, that size, I mean it's amazing to watch him work. He's huge, but he moves well. You don't feel the weight on the field that he's at. You don't feel his height. You don't feel like he can't bend. He is an extreme athlete.”
Johnson rushed for 641 yards with a 5.4 average and caught 32 passes for 213 yards as a rookie 2nd-round pick with the Lions in 2018. Despite missing six games, he finished fifth among rookie running backs with 854 scrimmage yards.
He’s battled injuries since and last year lost his job to rookie D’Andre Swift, the Philly native and St. Joe’s Prep graduate the Lions drafted in the second round.
Johnson was asked Wednesday about his expectations for the Eagles’ screen game, something that never got rolling last year.
In his answer, he mentioned three offensive linemen: Two multiple Pro Bowlers and a 24-year-old converted Australian rugby player.
“When you’ve got tackles like Jordan, you’ve got tackles like Lane, and you’ve got a center like Jason, it's hard to envision the screen game not being successful,” Johnson said.
“Those guys are so athletic. I mean, the way they move and some of the things they do on the field I have never seen and I’ve watched a lot of o-line, I've watched a lot of football. I've never seen it.
“These guys are beasts out there. So when they can move like that, and they're smart, and they understand their assignments like they do, you expect it to be pretty successful.”
Mailata and Dillard have been splitting reps so far, but you wouldn’t know it listening to Johnson.
Again, this wasn’t a slight toward Dillard, just a glimpse of how Mailata is perceived right now.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys on that line who are really good,” Johnson said. “So to me, seeing those guys work day in and day out, seeing Kelce, seeing Lane, seeing B-Brooks, seeing (Nate Herbig) and seeing Jordan just overshadow everybody on defense, it's been really awesome,” Johnson said. “And we look to ride those guys all year.”
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