It turns out Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson has an explanation for the dip in performance in 2018 — not that he’s making any excuses.
Johnson returned to the field for a mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, the first time he practiced with the team this offseason, though the absence was for good reason. The two-time Pro Bowl selection revealed he was still working his way back from a pair of injuries that had limited him for much of the previous season.
“Last year I played with a Grade 2 MCL (sprain) and a high ankle (sprain) in my left leg, so basically I was just trying to get healthy and get ready for the season,” Johnson said.
It should be noted he was with the team for aspects of OTAs despite skipping practices.
Traditionally very durable, Johnson was on and off the injury report throughout the season, and even missed one game due to the MCL. However, nobody outside the NovaCare Complex knew the full extent to which he was laboring.
“It happened early,” said Johnson. “The high ankle happened (Week 5), and then the MCL happened (Week 8).
“I didn’t really practice all year.”
One season earlier, Johnson was arguably the best offensive tackle, if not the best offensive lineman in the entire NFL. He earned first-team All-Pro honors while anchoring the Eagles’ front on the way to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship.
Yet, Johnson didn’t look quite the same at times last season. He still played well enough to reach his second consecutive Pro Bowl, albeit as an alternate, but was not nearly as dominant.
Nearly five full months after the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs, Johnson finally admitted he wasn’t 100 percent for much of the season.
“Took away a lot of power,” Johnson said of the injuries. “Just stuff I could normally do.”
When asked why he didn’t disclose the injuries as a way to deflect blame for the occasional bad snap, Johnson said, “That’s the game.”
“Because during the year, it really doesn’t count. The only thing that counts is I just wanted to be there for my team. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose. Obviously there’s some plays you’d like to have back, but moving forward is the best you can do.”
Johnson has established himself as a premier right tackle and is only 29, so there’s no reason to expect last season’s slide is permanent.
“That was the first year I really had to deal with any type of stuff like that,” Johnson said. “Other than that, I feel recovered now; I feel healthy and I feel good.”
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