Reporting Matt Leon
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By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles decided to bolster their offensive line in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night as they selected Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson with the 4th overall pick.
The 6’6″, 303-pound, Johnson is a fascinating story as he was a quarterback in high school and played tight end and defensive line in college before settling in and excelling at tackle.
James Patton is now an assistant coach at Indiana University, but from to 2006 through 2012, he coached the offensive line at Oklahoma, where he helped develop Johnson.
“He’s obviously a great athlete,” Patton told KYW Newsradio on Friday. “Lane’s a great kid, great athlete, a self-made great player. Two things that come to mind about Lane that obviously every person can control is he’s got a great attitude and he’s got great effort. He’s made himself a tremendous player, played on a great team with a bunch of great players. I know he’s excited and looking forward to the challenge of being down there in Philly.”
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Patton says Johnson is indeed a very special athlete.
“You can’t substitute that athletic ability for anything, just in terms of blocking guys on the edge,” Patton says. “The guys on the defensive side of the ball aren’t getting any slower, especially at the NFL level. They’re fast guys coming off the edge and Lane’s ability to adjust and his athletic ability to get in front and move people, again, that’s what we saw at Oklahoma. (Sooners head) Coach (Bob) Stoops, obviously a great coach, saw those in Lane. And obviously Lane bought into the philosophy of playing offensive line.”
Patton believes Johnson’s just going to keep getting better.
“I think he’s got a tremendous upside,” Patton says. “I think he’s got a chance to play for a long, long time. That’s the thing. He’s played the position two years, so he’s going to continue to learn more. And the coaches there, (Eagles head) Coach (Chip) Kelly , (Eagles’ offensive line) Coach (Jeff) Stoutland, those guys are great coaches. But Lane, he’s got the things that everybody can control and he does it. He’s got a great attitude, he’ll show up every day with a great attitude and he’s got great effort. He’s going to work his tail off. He’ll do whatever it takes to be the best player he can be, and that’s what he’s done.”
As for his strengths in the running game.
“We ran a lot of zone schemes in terms of the run game,” Patton says. “You see the tape on Lane, he’s great at getting his feet in the ground and running. Just his athleticism, to run off the ball in the run game, sink his hips and drive people, he naturally does that. He bends well, he’s really light on his feet, so that helps him in the run game. He’s pretty explosive off the ball.”
And when it comes to pass blocking.
“In the pass protection game, again, it’s mirroring those defenders and getting yourself into position to get your hands, and he’s got great hand strength,” Patton says. “Just tremendous from that standpoint of setting up, getting in front of people, locking on, moving his feet, keeping them off the quarterback, and that’s what he did for us at Oklahoma in his two years of being a great player there.”
As great as Patton says Johnson is on the field, the more you talk to him, you get the feeling the coach is even more impressed with Lane Johnson the person, than he is with Lane Johnson the player.
“I just can’t say enough about his work ethic and what kind of kid he is and his mindset and what he wants to accomplish.”
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw