Lane Johnson Is the Unsung Hero Pushing the Philadelphia Eagles to the Top of the NFC
The Philadelphia Eagles are on top of the NFC standings at 10-1 through 12 weeks, and there are myriad reasons why. Jalen Hurts is playing at an MVP-caliber level, Nick Sirianni has become one of the premier coaches in the NFL, and offseason additions such as A.J. Brown, Haason Redick, James Bradberry, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson have all exceeded expectations in Year 1.
But the biggest reason for the Eagles’ sustained success this year might be their exceptional offensive line, and, in particular, Lane Johnson.
Johnson has been a driving force behind Philadelphia’s efficient running game and explosive passing attack, but he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what he brings to this offense.
It’s about time he does.
Lane Johnson spearheads the best offensive line in the NFL
If you’ve watched any Eagles games this year, you probably didn’t even notice Johnson on the field or hear his name during the broadcast. Normally, that’s a bad sign in the NFL, but it’s the complete opposite for offensive linemen. If you’re essentially invisible on game days as a right tackle, that means you’re doing your job at an elite level.
Elite is exactly what Johnson has been dating back to 2020. According to a recent tweet from Pro Football Focus, the star RT hasn’t given up a sack in more than two calendar years. That’s a span of more than 26 games and more than 1,500 snaps!
Johnson, at 32 years of age, has been the best right tackle in the NFL all season long. He’s kept Hurts upright week in and week out and has been a major piece of Philly’s dominant rushing attack.
Through 12 weeks, the Eagles rank third in rushing yards per game (162.5). They’re averaging an NFL-best 199.3 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks and just bulldozed through the Green Bay Packers defense for 383 yards on the ground.
Johnson’s ability to pull both ways and clear paths on the run makes him an indispensable piece of this offense. His unique combination of size, strength, and agility can’t be found in any other right tackle around the league, and it’s a major reason why the Eagles are so effective on the ground and in the air.
The Eagles struggle when Johnson doesn’t suit up
You may not be able to notice Johnson’s immense impact while watching the Eagles, but it becomes evident whenever he isn’t on the field.
Throughout Johnson’s career, the Eagles are 69-43-1 with him in the lineup and 12-20 without him. Thankfully for Philadelphia, Johnson has started all 11 games for the team this season. He did miss the second half of an October game against the Dallas Cowboys due to a concussion, though, and that almost came back to bite the Eagles.
In the first half of that game, Micah Parsons was unable to record a single pressure on Hurts, let alone a sack. He recorded three pressures in the second half, though, all of which came when Johnson was off the field.
Hurts has thrown only three interceptions this year, in large part because he’s constantly operating from a clean pocket. Johnson, who hasn’t given up a single sack, is the main reason why. The Eagles are Super Bowl contenders with a healthy Johnson anchoring the right side of the line, but that might not be the case if he gets injured.
Who is the Philadelphia Eagles’ MVP?
This is a simple question to answer if you look solely at the betting odds.
Hurts, who has started every game and is the captain of the only 10-1 team in the NFL, is second on the MVP odds board at +350 ($100 bet wins $350). Only Patrick Mahomes (-140) is favored over the 24-year-old.
But the Eagles wouldn’t be where they’re at today without the best offensive line in the NFL. Over the past few years, Philadelphia has been forced to plug and play young offensive linemen due to injuries, which has hurt the offense and the team as a whole. That hasn’t been the case this season.
The sturdy group of Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Landon Dickerson, and Jordan Mailata has missed just one game combined all year long. Mailata is the only player of the bunch who has given up more than one sack on the season. It’s impossible to overstate how important that is to an offense.
The Eagles have the third-fewest turnovers in the NFL (10), in large part because their stellar offensive line keeps Hurts protected and opens up gaping holes for the running game. We’ve seen Philly put together multiple long drives in the fourth quarter to ice games, and that’s all thanks to the offensive line.
Johnson has been the most stable piece of this dominant group all year, so who really is the Eagles’ MVP through 12 weeks?
The Eagles need to capitalize on the window Lane Johnson has created
Johnson is still playing at an elite level at 32 years of age, but the Eagles won’t have the luxury of counting on the best right tackle in football forever. In fact, time is quickly running out on the possible future Hall of Famer’s career.
In a recent interview with Josh Tolentino of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Johnson admitted his plan is to play only a few more seasons after 2022-23 before calling it quits.
“To be honest with you, I’ve thought about playing this year and maybe two more,” Johnson said. “A lot of that is because of my [three] kids. I don’t want to be away from my kids more than I already am. They’re in Oklahoma, I only see them half the year, that’s all the time I get to spend with them. That’s a drag.”
With just two more years left of Johnson anchoring the right side of the line, the Eagles are under immense pressure to take advantage of this small window. Kelce could also walk away from the NFL as soon as this offseason, so Philadelphia won’t have the best offensive line in the league for much longer.
That makes this season close to a Super Bowl-or-bust mentality. The Eagles have the best record in the league at 10-1, they’re in the driver’s seat to land the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye, and they’ve been impressively healthy to this point in the season.
A healthy offensive line will make the Eagles the favorites to come out of the NFC, so they can’t afford to waste this opportunity. Johnson is already a Super Bowl champion, a three-time Pro Bowler, and a First-Team All-Pro, but he’d love to seal his legacy as the greatest right tackle in franchise history with another championship ring before he departs into the sunset.