“You idiot!!! I said to give the players a Pez dispenser, not a PED dispenser.”
I don’t know that Chip Kelly said those words today, but it is possible with the news that RT Lane Johnson is facing a 4-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. ILB Jake Knott tested positive previously and both players are slated to miss the first 4 games of the season.
The Eagles O-line had the same 5 guys start all 16 games last year. That stability helped the group to play at a high level despite having less than ideal circumstances (rookie RT, new RG and 3 players coming off injury all working for a new OL coach and learning a new scheme). Johnson’s suspension means the Eagles will have at least another player added to the mix this year.
Allen Barbre is the leading candidate to replace Johnson. He didn’t start for the Eagles last year, but did see some time at LT when Jason Peters was banged up. Barbre can be an effective RT, but losing him destroys the OL depth. What then happens if Peters gets hurt? The Eagles really need another young player to step up. Dennis Kelly would be the best choice because he has starting experience, but he hasn’t played in a while. Could Matt Tobin slide over to the right side? Michael Bamiro is more of a long shot with his limited background and pass protection issues.
The good news is that the Eagles have time to prepare for this. They can work the backup RT into the #1 offense in practices and games to try and build up some chemistry. They can shuffle guys around to see who they think fits best in which slots. The Eagles could also shop around for a veteran player to be a backup OT.
The Eagles haven’t had to deal with many situations like this over the years, but now have the second one in a matter of months. Is Chip Kelly’s Sports Science program pushing players too aggressively? I’m not saying the team would ever encourage players to take PEDs, but you could wonder if the desire to get every edge possible leads to a mentality that causes players to take chances.
Or maybe this is just a coincidence.
The one thing the players have in common is that they are both in their second season. They want to do everything possible to max out their ability. Things are very different beyond that. Knott is fighting for a roster spot. Johnson wants to make the Pro Bowl.
Knott proclaimed his innocence after testing positive, claiming it was the dreaded supplement that got him. We’ll hear from Johnson some time in the near future.
Every football season is full of challenges. Last year it was losing Jeremy Maclin and dealing with Rileygate. The first challenge of the 2014 season is upon us. It will be interesting to see how Kelly deals with this. He’s got plenty of time to come up with the right answer. One bit of advice I can offer…the answer isn’t Demetress Bell.
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