Lane Johnson, the No. 4 overall pick out of Oklahoma, wasn't the only Eagles rookie analysts questioned heading into the season.
There were concerns Philadelphia rookie head coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced, Oregon offense might flop in the NFL, a league linebackers and safeties are faster, a league players are better trained to play assignment football.
But with Johnson anchoring the right side of the Eagles' offensive line and six-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters the left side, LeSean McCoy won the NFL rushing title and Nick Foles compiled the highest quarterback rating in the league.
“People had suspicions whether it was really going to work,” Johnson said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman. “We started slow. We had some adversity. But once we got it going, we really started rolling.”
The Eagles, who host New Orleans Saturday night in an NFC wild card game, finished second in the league in total offense, averaging 417.3 yards a game. They were fourth in scoring (27.6).
Kelly's offense was a good fit for Johnson, who played four different positions in college.
Starting all 16 games at right tackle, Johnson has experienced customary rookie growing pains but has held his own against elite speed pass rushers.
“It's been a lot of work constantly changing positions,” Johnson said. “I wasn't a player that got a lot of publicity. I've always been a dark horse who had to work his way up. That's my mentality. No matter what happens, I take things in stride, I keep battling.”
Johnson, who signed a four-year contract worth nearly $20 million, prefers left tackle but will stay on the right side as long as Peters, a 31-year-old, six-time Pro Bowler, is in Philadelphia. Peters has one more year left on his contract.
“When you're right-handed it actually helps you on the left side,” Johnson said. “If your right hand is your dominant hand, for me anyway, it's easier in pass protection. It helps me stay balanced. I've adjusted. I feel I've been progressing all year.”
There were early-season reports Johnson was holding his own run blocking but struggled at times in pass protection. Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said Johnson more than met expectations.
“He's played fast which sometimes is difficult for rookies. And he's played with a tremendous amount of confidence,” Stoutland told phillynews.com. “Don't misunderstand me. He's not a finished product, yet. Lane has so much room to grow.”
The same could be said about Kelly's offense and the Eagles.
Philadelphia started the season 2-5 but went 7-1 down the stretch.
Two weeks ago in a 54-11 win over Chicago, a game they had nothing to play for, knowing the Dallas finale would determine their playoff fate, the Eagles showed a national TV audience Kelly's offense is faring just fine.
“We're gaining momentum at the right time,” Johnson said. “You can never look ahead. But if we play up to our potential we can make a good run.”