Ex-QB could be Eagles' fallback at tackle

Posted: January 25, 2013

MOBILE, Ala. - Got a line on a really good prospect at Senior Bowl practice this week.

A few years ago, he was a junior-college quarterback. But he made the transition to the big time, and now everybody says he's looking like a first-rounder in the April NFL draft. At offensive tackle.

It's been an interesting journey for Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, a lean, imposing 6-6, 302-pounder who made stops at defensive end and tight end before settling on the o-line just two seasons ago. After a good week of practice in Mobile, he ranks just below the very top tier in an excellent offensive-tackle draft class. (The Eagles almost certainly wouldn't draft Johnson fourth overall, but if they can't get Texas A & M's Luke Joeckel there, and they still want a solid tackle, they could trade down and take Johnson).

"From his movement skills, it's obvious he has the ability to play left tackle," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Thursday. Johnson played both sides at Oklahoma. "He's a little bit further along techniquewise than I expected him to be, and he can put another 20 pounds on, easily, without even thinking about it, without sacrificing any of those movement skills."

Johnson said he had a strong arm and ran a pro-style passing offense at Kilgore College in Texas, throwing about 25 times a game. But he just kept growing, and it got to the point where major colleges looked at him and projected everything but quarterback. He went to Oklahoma as a tight end. Kept growing. Switched to defensive end. Wasn't getting on the field.

"When [head coach Bob Stoops] asked me [to move yet again] I wasn't real sure about it," Johnson recalled Thursday. "But that was my only chance to get on the field, so that's what I did. [Stoops] said, 'We need ya. I think you'd make a great fit.' "

Johnson feels his perspective makes him more sensitive to what happens when a tackle doesn't do his job.

"There's nothing worse than getting blindsided," he said.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, Johnson's teammate again this week on the South team, appreciates Johnson's background.

"He can still throw it - probably farther than most of the guys here," Jones said. "He kind of flipped back and forth, but I think he's found a spot for himself, for sure . . . He picked it up well."

Johnson said teams ask him about the transitions he's made. He said they don't seem to worry that he still has some things to learn about o-line play.

"They watched me improve from last year's tape to this year's tape. I think they're confident in my abilities. I know I am . . . In 2011, I was pretty raw," he said.

Living large

Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins measured a little under 6-4 here, and 359 pounds, making him the heaviest Senior Bowl participant. Jenkins said he played both nose tackle and d-end in the Bulldogs' 3-4.

"I can play anywhere they want to put me," he said.

All really big guys face questions about their "motor." That's what Jenkins has been working on this week, he said.

What has he shown?

"That I can run to the ball. And even though I may weigh more than everybody on this field, I'm still faster than a lot of people on this field," Jenkins said.

Senior moments

Other reflections on the week in Mobile:

* The Eagles aren't drafting a quarterback fourth overall, unless West Virginia's Geno Smith, who turned down his invite here, absolutely performs legendary feats at the NFL Scouting Combine. Yeah, Syracuse and Malvern Prep's Ryan Nassib is a great story and we're all pulling for the local kid, but fourth overall? In last year's draft class of QBs, he's a third-rounder. No thanks. Trade down and draft him? Sure.

* Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher is exactly what Senior Bowl week is for. Showed he could block the SEC guys, now he's probably a top-10 pick.

* Denard Robinson, the Michigan QB turning into a wideout, has an awful lot of work to do on route-running and other basics of the position. I'd pass.

* Rice tight end Vance McDonald was the best player here from a school named after a side dish.

The wideout here was Oregon State's Markus Wheaton. For real. Very strong talent.

* Bet heavily on the South team Saturday. That's where all the SEC guys are. The North squad seems to be for guys from West Virginia, Harvard and Kent State.

* Chip Kelly needs to spend some of that $6.5 million a year on some new jeans. Looks like a sports writer.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

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