Eagles

Most important Eagles for 2020: Definitely can't afford to lose Lane Johnson now

Most important Eagles for 2020: Definitely can't afford to lose Lane Johnson now

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be counting down the 20 most important Eagles for the 2020 season. 

20: Nate Sudfeld 
19. Avonte Maddox
18. Nathan Gerry
17. Dallas Goedert  
16. Derek Barnett
15. Jalen Reagor 
14. Jalen Mills
13. Brandon Brooks
12. Rodney McLeod
11. Javon Hargrave
10. Miles Sanders  
9. Andre Dillard
8. Brandon Graham
7. Zach Ertz 
6. DeSean Jackson 
5. Lane Johnson 

The Eagles have already lost one Pro Bowler on the right side of their offensive line. They definitely can’t afford to lose another. 

Johnson, 30, isn’t just a good player. The former first-round pick has become the best right tackle in the NFL, making the last three Pro Bowl teams. 

Ever since Johnson lost 10 games in the 2016 season for a second violation of the NFL’s PED policy, he has been incredible.

Johnson missed four games last season and also missed the playoff game against Seattle with a high ankle sprain. But when Johnson was on the field, he was great in 2019, ranking as ProFootballFocus’s fourth-best offensive tackle last season. 

Since Doug Pederson became head coach in 2016, including playoffs, the Eagles are 36-17 with Johnson and 6-11 without him in the starting lineup. The whole offense is different when he’s not in there. 

There used to be this thought that the best tackles had to play on the left side of the line to protect the quarterback’s blindside, but Johnson is helping to change the stigma about playing right tackle. Because teams had traditionally put their best tackle on the left side, many of the NFL’s premier pass rushers line up on the left side of the defensive line to face right tackles. That means Johnson ends up seeing a murderer’s row of the best pass rushers in the game every season. And just about every week, he shuts them down. 

The Eagles have shown how much Johnson means to them. They gave him a four-year extension worth $72 million last November. That contract of $18 million per year made Johnson the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. (Laremy Tunsil passed that with a new deal in April). 

But Johnson is now signed through the 2025 season. He’s the first player the Eagles have gotten under contract through 2025. At the completion of that season, he’ll be 35 years old. 

It’s a shame that Johnson will have to play the 2020 season without his friend and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks next to him this season. Brooks tore his Achilles this offseason and will miss the entire year. The two of them together, plus Jason Kelce at center, form the most formidable right side of the line in football. 

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Eagles activate Jordan Mailata from Reserve/COVID-19 list

Eagles activate Jordan Mailata from Reserve/COVID-19 list

The entire Eagles roster will finally be back together on Thursday after the team activated Jordan Mailata from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. 

Mailata was the last remaining player on the list. And head coach Doug Pederson also returned to the NovaCare Complex yesterday after his positive COVID-19 test. 

Back on July 29, the Eagles placed Lane Johnson, Nathan Gerry and Mailata on the list. The Reserve/COVID-19 list is for players who either test positive for the coronavirus or who have been exposed to someone who has. Only Johnson publicly announced he contracted the virus. 

Gerry was activated on Aug. 9, Johnson on Aug. 11 and Mailata today. 

The Eagles have not put any other players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list since those original three back in July. 

This is a big season for Mailata, the 23-year-old former rugby player. He’s entering Year 3 in the NFL and has obviously been a project player. 

Earlier this offseason, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said he couldn’t give a real answer as to whether or not Mailata goes from project to legitimate backup in 2020, but he has seen some good signs. 

“I can say this: In the meetings that we have, the virtual meetings, he was a completely different guy in the meetings,” Stoutland said. “And, you’re going to say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ His confidence level. Because we require these guys to know a lot and to be able to convert blocking schemes and calls. Completely, completely different in the meeting. 

“Now, will that carry over to the field? Every morning when I come here I pray that’s what will happen. Do I think that will happen? Absolutely. But I can’t guarantee that. We’re going to find out, though. That’s what this is all about. And if it does carry over then we got action. We’re going to be in good shape.”

While Mailata missed over two weeks, he missed just one practice day. The Eagles were finally allowed to practice on Aug. 12. So Mailata will get the rest of the non-padded practices under his belt before the pads come on next Monday. 

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5 things Dave would have been watching in tonight’s Eagles preseason opener

5 things Dave would have been watching in tonight’s Eagles preseason opener

In a normal offseason, in a normal summer, we’d be preparing to watch a football game tonight. The Eagles were scheduled to be in Indianapolis tonight for a 7 p.m. kickoff of their preseason. 

Alas, this is not a normal summer. The entire preseason was canceled. 

So instead of watching the Eagles take on the Colts in Indianapolis tonight, Reuben Frank and I are left thinking about what we would have been watching. 

Here are five things Roob would have watched.

While some players won’t miss the preseason, I will. I love every bit of training camp and the preseason. There were plenty of things I wanted to watch too. 

Here are five: 

Jason Peters at right guard 

This would have been our first chance to see an experiment in game action. Obviously, if games were being played, Peters would have had practice time before them, but playing a new position in game action is much different. It really is a fascinating experiment with Peters this year. He’s 38 and has had a Hall of Fame career as a left tackle. But an injury to a great right guard forced the Eagles to bring Peters back at a different position on a different side of the line. I can’t wait to see how this works. But we’ll now have to wait for the regular season. 

Does the offense really look different? 

No, it’s unlikely the Eagles would have given away all their secrets in the preseason. But I really wonder what kind of changes we’ll see on offense after plenty of turnover on the offensive coaching staff. The Eagles have downplayed those changes and most of what they do in preseason would have been vanilla anyway … but maybe there would have been some hints tonight. I at least would have watched Carson Wentz closely to see any changes. 

Jalen Mills at his new position 

Like Peters, Mills is switching positions this season. He’s going from a cornerback in Jim Schwartz’s scheme to a safety and is pretty much replacing Malcolm Jenkins. That’s a big ask. No one expects Mills to be as good as Jenkins but based on how much Jenkins meant to the Eagles’ defense over the last several years, it’s fair to wonder how they’ll fare without him. Mills’ success or failure in this role will go a long way in determining that. 

The young running back battle 

As long as they’re healthy, I expect Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Corey Clement to be on the roster. But the Eagles traditionally keep four running backs, which leaves a three-man competition for that last spot. Elijah Holyfield is a second-year undrafted player who got here late last winter. And Mike Warren and Adrian Killins are undrafted rookies this year. Killins is a speed demon, so his skills should show up in practice. But Holyfield and Warren are more known for their between-the-tackles running style. It’s awfully hard to replicate that style in practices. 

The linebacker rotation 

Sure the Eagles drafted two linebackers and they added Jatavis Brown. But Brown retired, Davion Taylor is raw and Bradley was a 6th-round pick. So that means all their additions might not amount to a ton in 2020. And they lost Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill to free agency, so they return a group of Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley and Alex Singleton. We have a lot of questions about this group and we would have seen the rotation start to come together tonight. As it is, we’ll just have to watch closely in training camp. 

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