Eagles’ Lane Johnson still out; how T.J. Edwards, Shaun Bradley made punt block vs. Panthers happen
Eagles center Jason Kelce said Johnson visited the Eagles' team facility briefly last week before the team left for Charlotte.
When the Eagles took the practice field Tuesday for a walk-through, they were without their starting right tackle Lane Johnson once again.
Johnson, who has missed the last two games because of a personal matter, was the only player on the active roster who didn’t practice Tuesday. He could end up missing the team’s Thursday night game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Johnson has been out since being a surprise addition to the team’s inactive list 90 minutes before the Eagles hosted the Chiefs on Oct. 3. The team hasn’t offered many details regarding Johnson’s absence, other than that he’s dealing with something privately and has the team’s support. Eagles center Jason Kelce said Johnson visited the Eagles’ facility briefly last week before the team left for Charlotte, N.C.
“I’ve talked to Lane, I met with him,” Kelce said Tuesday. “I just wish the best for him. Everybody in here loves the guy. He’s such a great personality; he’s a great person to be around; he’s a guy that really makes our room a lot more fun and a lot more energetic. He’s obviously a great football player. I wish him nothing but the best, can’t say enough good things about Lane Johnson.”
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni wore a sticker with Johnson’s No. 65, something he has done to show support for injured players dating back to his time as the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator. He also wears Isaac Seumalo’s No. 56 and Brandon Graham’s No. 55, since both players suffered season-ending injuries.
Sirianni doesn’t don the numbers of other inactive players like Brandon Brooks or K’Von Wallace, who are both expected to return at some point this season, but said he doesn’t expect Johnson to miss the entire year like the other two injured players represented on his visors.
“That’s not reflective that he’ll be out for the season,” Sirianni said Monday. “[He’s] still working through a personal matter, and we’re here for Lane for everything and all our guys through good times and bad times. I wanted those guys to know that they are a part of it and they were there with us. Even though they weren’t there on the field with us, they were there with us, and they have contributed to everything that’s going on here and to this organization.”
If Johnson doesn’t play Thursday night, the Eagles will go into their second game with Jordan Mailata filling in at right tackle and Andre Dillard protecting Jalen Hurts’ blindside. Mailata returned Sunday after missing two weeks with a sprained knee suffered at practice and played reasonably well on the right side, accommodating Dillard’s discomfort playing on the right. After struggling at times during training camp, Dillard has settled in and played well on the left side. He hasn’t allowed a sack and has surrendered seven pressures in four starts.
» READ MORE: Follow the Eagles-Bucs game as it happens on GameDay Central, with in-game comments from The Inquirer's writers, photos and more
Clay’s special play
Midway through the Eagles’ 21-18 win over the Carolina Panthers, T.J. Edwards and Shaun Bradley knew they’d have a chance to make a play.
The pair went to special teams coordinator Michael Clay asking to run one of the “checks” they’d worked on in practice, knowing it would work against the protection Carolina was using on punts.
In the fourth quarter, it paid off, with Edwards blocking a punt partially thanks to Bradley occupying two blockers on the rush. Bradley recovered the loose ball at the Panthers’ 27-yard line, setting up the Eagles’ go-ahead touchdown drive in the final two minutes.
“They went to the check. They ran it perfectly,” Clay said during a Tuesday news conference. “At first I thought T.J. overran it because it got so clean, and it hit him in the biceps, but luckily, I think we paid a little bit of our dues, and we finally got one. It helped swing the momentum for the game, and it helped us win, which is all we want to do being that special teams unit.”
» READ MORE: T.J. Edwards’ blocked punt leads to Eagles’ winning drive: ‘Execution was unbelievable’
Clay also said he talked to Jalen Reagor about his decision-making on kickoff returns after the second-year wide receiver made a few dubious choices to return kicks deep in the end zone. One of Reagor’s returns left the offense with poor field position, starting out at the 16-yard line and leading to a safety after an errant snap.
After talking to Reagor following the return, Clay said the 2020 first-round pick realized he should have taken the touchback.
“We had our conversation before the half, and he knew it,” Clay said. “But I would rather have a guy that’s super aggressive than having to amp somebody up, but we’ve also got to be a smarter team to help the team in that way, and as a special teams coach, we put our offense in a bad situation. Especially what transpired after with the high snap and everything, so it felt like special teams had a big part in that. So it’s just, once again, understanding it’s a big team game with our return game.”