As the Eagles move from the OTA portion of their spring workouts to the mandatory minicamp portion — also known as the portion during which it costs money to not show up — Lane Johnson will trudge from the left side of the offensive line back to the right side.
That's because Jason Peters, who has a healthy respect for his body and his wallet, will return to the NovaCare complex this week after observing the voluntary sessions from a distance that is grudgingly accorded a veteran of his stature.
The Eagles might have been privately miffed about others who were missing during some or all of the OTAs, and probably as mystified by the absence of Marcus Smith as the rest of us, but when it came to the 35-year-old, nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle, well, Jason got a pass.
As for Johnson, who is expected to take over the left side eventually, he got three weeks of practicing his techniques at that spot, three weeks of looking down the road to where he wants to be, and three weeks farther away from last year's 10-game PED suspension.
"I'd say I'm a top 10 tackle in the league, right or left. I'm not trying to be arrogant or anything, but go watch the film," Johnson said. "A lot of times they associate left tackle with having great feet and right tackle with being less athletic, but my deal is I've got one of the best ever, a Hall of Fame guy, playing the left, so I've got to bide my time until I'm over there. It's been a good situation for me."
Well, when he's been eligible, it's been good. In the six games he started opposite Peters last season — those two small-town Texas boys building a cradle around the quarterback — the Eagles were 5-1. Some of that was circumstance and opponent, of course, but those were the results, as was the 2-8 record when Johnson was sidelined for a positive test he claimed resulted from a tainted supplement.
He's back this season preaching a mantra of diet and nutrition that obviates the need for extra help, according to Johnson. The guy who was a 202-pound quarterback as a college freshman, the one who is now listed at 317 pounds, says he can keep himself at NFL weight and strength with clean living and kale.
"I still eat a lot of food, but I cut out the junk stuff, the fried food, the sweet stuff. If you can do that, you'll feel better. I eat chicken, beef, fish, potatoes, a lot more vegetables, kale, spinach," Johnson said. "I'm stronger than I've ever been. This is the biggest I've ever been."
Lane Johnson bragging that he's the biggest he's ever been wasn't necessarily something to be expected this season, but if he's not worried, who among us should doubt him? He has sworn off supplements and says the weight is staying on him just fine.
"They claim they're certified, but I ain't risking it," he said.
Assuming the best, which includes a healthy season for Peters, the Eagles look to be deep on the offensive line, the better to protect the franchise quarterback. The front office has done everything to pad the corners for Carson Wentz and put him in the best position to succeed, adding talent to the running back and receiver positions and ensuring that the line was properly staffed. Now, it's just a matter of avoiding injuries and staying eligible. And, for Johnson, biding time on the right side for at least another year. He did enjoy the OTA experience on the left side, however.
"It went good. That's what I was drafted as. It's where I feel comfortable," Johnson said. "It's different when you haven't done it in five years. It seems simple, but everything's backwards. It takes time to adjust. The [idea] is to get reps in whenever you can, so when I do make the transition over to the left side, it won't be so long of having no reps at all. Just trying to put money in the bank when you can."
Having made the deposit into his left tackle account during OTAs, Johnson welcomes Peters back and things return to normal. Or, at least, that's the plan.
"I just want to show people what kind of tackle I am," Johnson said. "I think I'm one of the best in the league and I just want to go out, do less talking, and show people what I can do."
If it all works out, it will be a win for steak, potatoes, and veggies. Lane Johnson promises that will be the case.
"You just got to get the bad stuff out of your way," he said, before pausing to admit how much that entails. "But it is hard to do."