I recently read Marcus Hayes’ column on Philly.com titled. ‘Lane Johnson’s ban won’t test Eagles too much’ and felt his angle on the story missed the mark. He basically says ‘Lane Johnson is the Eagles most replaceable player and we are lucky it was Lane who was suspended because he is not very good’. And just like that, BAM, he lost me. First of all Johnson IS good, and everyone agrees after adjusting to the NFL and newer position of right tackle he played extremely well. Not to mention that his partner on the right side Todd Herremans was also adjusting to a new position and coming off an injury. But that is not my point; my point is this team is no longer about one player. We just experienced the perfect example of that philosophy with DeSean Jackson. So for Marcus Hayes to say, ‘It’s ok to lose Lane Johnson because he is not that good’ is just so far off the actual story it caused me to write this post.
The story should have been about Chip’s philosophy of ‘Next Man In’. That is actually the title of a chapter in Mark Saltveit’s book The Tao of Chip Kelly (great book by the way). When you dig deep into Chip’s mentality of Next Man In then you start to see how the team is built, and how losing a player like umm the STARTING QB Mike Vick, the Eagles can insert back up Nick Foles and the team can play on seamlessly. And it happened many times last year with success, including the O line. Allen Barbre filled in nicely for Jason Peters in the Green Bay game, which by the way may have singlehandedly earned him the 3 year deal he signed this off season. But it was because Barbre embraced the philosophy of Next Man In that he jumped at the opportunity, played great, and the Eagles won a key game.
You can also see the influence of Next Man In based on how the Eagles drafted. They had the opportunity to trade up and pick a top level player, but they choose to trade down, received more picks, and start building depth. If they were about ONE guy, they would have traded up, but that is no longer the Eagles way, the new way is that this team is bigger than any one player. And for the Eagles to truly be successful each player needs to be ready to step up and fill in when needed. Injuries happen, suspensions happen but with this new leadership, the players are ready to perform no matter where they are on the depth chart. Just look at all the teams the Eagles played who lost their key players. All you hear is ‘the Eagles were lucky they faced teams backups!’ Well last I checked Nick Foles was the Eagles back up and they also lost their key WR Jeremy Maclin in Training Camp. So don’t talk to me about playing backups.
Potentially losing Lane Johnson does stink, but you can have confidence that the Eagles have dealt well with losing key players in the past. So when Marcus Hayes says, ‘It’s ok if the Eagles lose Lane Johnson because he is not that good’, I just feel he does not see the big picture, and that is not the story. The story is that every player on the 53 man roster (and practice squad) is preparing like they will play, and this team is built with players who embrace the Next Man In attitude. I am confident that the team will fill in nicely, and continue to perform seamlessly with a winning attitude should Lane Johnson be suspended.