Philadelphia Eagles Must Be Patient with Tackle Lane Johnson

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIJune 13, 2013

May 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles first round draft pick offensive tackle Lane Johnson (65) during organized team activities at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who will forever be remembered as the first pick in the Chip Kelly era. 

Johnson was the third tackle drafted, behind Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, who were selected by the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars with the top two picks in the draft, respectively. 

At pick No. 4, Johnson is definitely a reach. There's almost no denying that. He's played the position for just two years, having started his college career as a quarterback before switching to the offensive line.

But Kelly says that he loves the selection because his ceiling is the highest, considering the massive talent he's already displayed after just two seasons. 

One of Kelly's favorite aspects of Johnson is his tremendous athletic ability. The former Oklahoma Sooners star is expected to be a major force in the running game, as well as downfield blocking on screen passes.

In that sense, his athletic ability will fit in nicely with Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans. You could easily call those five the most athletic group of offensive linemen in the league. 

But don't expect Johnson's rookie season to be a cakewalk. Far from it, in fact.

Look at the last time the Eagles drafted an offensive lineman in the first round. Danny Watkins was also considered a reach, and he really struggled during his first two years in the league. He played so poorly, in fact, that his future as a starter in the NFL is in serious doubt.

Johnson is very likely going to struggle as a rookie. Don't be surprised if he is a below-average right tackle and the weakest link on the team's offensive line. 

Historically, though, first-round offensive linemen have taken several years to live up to their draft potential and become stars.

Recent examples include Washington's Trent Williams and Seattle's Russell Okung. Both struggled during their first two seasons but became among the best at their position in year three, earning what is likely the first of many Pro Bowl selections.

Other players who took a few years to reach their full potential include Jacksonville's Eugene Monroe, San Francisco's Anthony Davis and Cincinnati's Andre Smith. 

The most important thing for the Eagles to do is allow Johnson to progress naturally. There's no need to bench him, even if he struggles for his entire rookie season. Playing Dennis Kelly is not going to fix things. Moving veteran Herremans, who is better suited at guard and not tackle, is not going to fix things. 

Letting Lane Johnson suffer through growing pains is the only real solution. If he's a bust, he'll need three full seasons to prove it, not four games or one season. 

Patience is the key to Lane Johnson's development.