Top pick Lane Johnson still working with second team

Eagles QB Michael Vick is all smiles, although he took only 15 snaps in Monday's seven-on-seven and team drills while Nick Foles took 21.
Eagles QB Michael Vick is all smiles, although he took only 15 snaps in Monday's seven-on-seven and team drills while Nick Foles took 21. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 22, 2013

When Chip Kelly was asked what to make out of Dennis Kelly playing at starting right tackle over first-round pick Lane Johnson last week, Chip Kelly responded that "it's May 13."

Well Monday was May 20, and the lineup is the same. Dennis Kelly, a fifth-round pick in 2012, remained with the starting offensive line. Johnson, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, continued taking his snaps with the second team.

The Eagles are making Johnson earn the starting job, and he isn't reading too much into the designation.

"I think right now it's really early," Johnson said. "Training camp doesn't start until August. So you're trying to get as many reps as you can, learn the system, and that's where I'm at right now."

Until the change occurs - and it's expected to occur at some point - Dennis Kelly will pick up where he left off last season. Kelly started 10 games in 2012. He was inconsistent, with occasional flashes of promise. His role is probably as a versatile depth player, although he's trying to prove otherwise.

Kelly, who is 6-foot-8 and listed at 321 pounds, said he's at the same weight as last season but that it's "better weight." He played in a fast-paced offense at Purdue, so the concepts of the new system are not foreign to him.

One of the qualities about Kelly that Andy Reid valued last season was that Kelly could play guard or tackle. He has played only tackle so far under the new coaching staff, and playing guard has not come up in conversation.

He said he can adjust to guard because he tries to learn what the player next to him is doing, and pointed to Todd Herremans' transition back to guard as an example of how a player can adjust. But Kelly has viewed right tackle as his job to lose.

"Why wouldn't I look at it that way?" Kelly said.

The obvious answer is because the Eagles spent their first draft pick on an offensive tackle, and they have Jason Peters occupying the opposite side. Kelly said he's trying to show coaches that he should be playing, regardless of Johnson.

"He'll get a shot, so we'll see," Kelly said of Johnson.

Kelly praised his new teammate, calling Johnson "explosive" and said Johnson has quickly learned the offense. Johnson noted a dramatic difference between last week and this week, specifically about knowing his assignment. That has allowed him to play faster, and faster is always better under Chip Kelly.

"Last week was my first time being around the facility with all the guys, first practices, not knowing what to expect," Johnson said. "But now this week I know what to expect and what's coming."

Johnson still has not signed his rookie contract, although no top-four pick has signed a deal. The tackle said he is waiting for the other players to sign, which sets the market. Once that happens, he'll sign his deal.

Rookie contracts seldom create holdouts under the new collective bargaining agreement because of slotted salaries, and any hiccups are usually based on offsetting language. Johnson does not expect his deal to be a problem.

"I'm going to be with the team working," Johnson said. "I've never really had money before, so I really don't care."

Chip Kelly did not sound concerned last week, and he's right that it's early. But two weeks into OTAs, Johnson remains a backup. He'll need to earn his spot with the starting line.

"It's whenever," Johnson said. "Keep on progressing, and when that happens, good things will happen. Hopefully, I'll be in there soon."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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