The Philadelphia Eagles get their starting right tackle, Lane Johnson, back from suspension this week. Johnson was suspended for taking a banned substance for the second time in his NFL career and was subsequently suspended ten games.
In the first four games Johnson played in, the Eagles were 3-1. Over the next ten that Johnson was suspended, the team went 2-8. Including the current five-games losing streak. The Eagles have not won a road game since September 19 in Chicago. Their only road wins of the season. Lane played in that only road win.
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After Lane was forced to serve his suspension, the Eagles asked Halapoulivaati Vaitai to replace him, which turned out horribly. In his first start against Washington, Ryan Kerrigan grabbed ahold of quarterback Carson Wentz’s jersey on the first play and shredded it. The first play of the game. The first play without Lane Johnson. The first of ten games without a pro bowl tackle.
Vaitai eventually settled into his role and became a strong player for the Eagles this season until he was injured. The Eagles moved lineman all around with Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Brandon Brooks and Allen Barbre starting, switching, moving and getting injured.
Sure, would have helped to have had a pro bowl starting right tackle.
Can the Eagles blame their season on one player? No. Lane Johnson is one man, he’s not the entire team.
Lane Johnson doesn’t play defense, he doesn’t give up touchdowns or rush the passer. Johnson doesn’t run the ball. He may block for a runner and open holes but somebody else needs to run. Johnson doesn’t call plays either.
Johnson didn’t make bad play calls that lost the Eagles several games. To place on the blame of a losing season on one player is preposterous and childish.
Players are suspended or injured every single year, teams move on without them. The Eagles knew full well that Lane Johnson was possibly going to be suspended and they didn’t sign a free agent tackle before the season started.
The Eagles did not give Vaitai any reps with the starting offense until Johnson was suspended. Why not? They knew he was eventually going to replace Johnson, why not let him get his feet wet?
Well now, he’s back. Will the Eagles beat the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys in the next two games? Most likely not. Seeing as they’ve not won a divisional game all season. But we’ll see.
We’ll see if Johnson has magical powers to make the team win all by himself.