Being considered the best right tackle in the NFL sometimes can feel like being the tallest midget in the circus.
Lane Johnson can tell people it’s as important for a football team to have a solid right tackle as it is to have a solid left tackle until he’s blue in the face.
But the sad fact of the matter is that when his peers spend their annual five minutes scribbling down their Pro Bowl choices, and the voters for the All-Pro teams submit their ballots, right tackles, including Johnson, usually get the short end of the stick.
One of these days, perhaps next season, the 27-year-old Texan finally will move over to left tackle and get the recognition he deserves. Until then, he will live for afternoons like Sunday, when he got the opportunity to prove himself against one of the best edge rushers in the game, Von Miller.
“I was looking forward to this matchup,’’ Johnson said after the Eagles’ lopsided 51-23 win over Miller’s Broncos. “It was a big week for me. I just tried to lay low and study. I had a good week of practice and it paid off.’’
Indeed it did. Johnson handled Miller as well as any tackle who’s gone up against the five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All Pro.
Kept him away from quarterback Carson Wentz, who was sacked just once and threw four touchdown passes, and played a pivotal role in an impressive 197-yard rushing performance against a Broncos defense that supposedly couldn’t be run on.
“He did a helluva job,’’ said right guard Brandon Brooks, who plays alongside Johnson. “Lane’s the best right tackle in the league, man. This probably was his biggest test of the season. He went out there and handled it like he needed to do. He did a helluva job.’’
Johnson occasionally got some help on Miller from a chipping tight end or a running back. But for the most part, this was mano-a-mano. Johnson vs. Miller. And Johnson clearly won the battle.
“A lot of what he does, he beats a lot of guys off the ball,’’ Johnson said. “But a lot of times, he’ll bull-rush guys. People will go to sleep on how strong he is. I tried to sink my hips on him.
“He got a pressure on the first play, I think. But other than that, I just tried to keep my cool with him.’’
Johnson and Miller shook hands and spoke briefly on the field after the game.
“He just said, ‘Good game and keep it up,’ pretty much,’’ Johnson said. “It was a big game for me. I’m happy it went well. I’m ready to get a week off and then focus on Dallas.’’
And another big opportunity for Johnson to prove himself again against Cowboys left end DeMarcus Lawrence, who went into Week 9 as the league’s sack leader.
“Lane doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody,’’ center Jason Kelce said. “But I understand why today was big for him.
“Anytime you go up against a perennial guy, it means a lot to you. Because that’s one of the best in the league, and you get to showcase your talent against somebody who, up until now, hasn’t been blocked by anybody.’’
Kelce said Johnson’s performance against Miller was not at all surprising.
“He’s been like this for the past few years,’’ he said. “He’s been progressively getting better. You saw last year where he really took that step to being the best right tackle in the NFL, and certainly in the conversation with being [considered] the best tackle period, along with another guy who, unfortunately is hurt [Jason Peters]. This just showcased that even more.’’
Miller had a sack and forced fumble against the Eagles. But it came in the fourth quarter after both Johnson and Wentz had left the game. Miller, who may or may not have been offside on the play, beat Johnson’s replacement, Isaac Seumalo, to the outside and knocked the ball out of backup Nick Foles’ hand.
Johnson and the rest of the Eagles’ offensive line dominated the Broncos’ front seven. The Broncos came into the game ranked second in the league in both rushing yards allowed per game (72.9) and yards allowed per carry (3.0). Just one of their first seven opponents had managed to rush for more than 80 yards.
But the Eagles rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries. Their new trade acquisition, Jay Ajayi, had 77 yards on eight carries, including a 46-yard touchdown run. Rookie Corey Clement had 51 yards on 12 carries, including two TDs.
The Eagles’ success on the ground prevented Miller and the Broncos defense from teeing off on Wentz. So did the fact that Wentz mixed up his cadence all afternoon, which resulted in three offside and neutral-zone infractions against Miller and the Broncos’ other edge rusher, Shane Ray.
“That was one thing we saw Andy [Reid] and the Chiefs do against them,’’ Johnson said of Wentz’s varying the cadence. “It worked in our favor.’’
“You have to do that against these guys. If you go back and watch the tape, I don’t know how many offsides they’re averaging, but it’s quite a bit. You look at the film, Von’s getting a pretty good jump on all of them. He’s already an unbelievable, explosive guy. Why let him get a jump on the ball, as well.
“We definitely wanted to switch the cadence up. We repped it all week. Carson did a good job of not only changing it up himself, but also listening to us when we would say, ‘Hey, we kind of need to switch this up a little here.’ “