Philadelphia Eagles: Cameron Johnston looks like another longballer

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

With the Donnie Longball-era officially over, it looks like the Philadelphia Eagles have found a more than adequate replacement in Cameron Johnston.

When Donnie Jones announced his retirement after the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in franchise history, it came as a bit of a surprise.

A true stalwart of the special teams unit, who’d filled the role since 2013, Jones’ consistency in rocketing off field flipping punts earned him the nickname Donnie Longball and nary left fans worried about an errant kick costing the team field position.

But fortunately for Philly, the reigning Super Bowl champions won’t have to look far to find his eventual replacement.

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Last summer, Jones was entrenched in a pretty fierce punting competition with a then-rookie punter from Ohio State named Cameron Johnston. Though Jones eventually pulled out the W, Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman, and Dave Fipp obviously liked Johnston’s potential and directional punting abilities enough that they kept the Australian goofy-footer close by, eventually signing him to a future contract earlier this year.

And if the Eagles’ preseason debut is of any indication, it looks like Cameron to will soon be in the market for a new nickname.

In his first live-action game in an Eagles uniform in almost a year, Johnston looked impressive taking snaps from long snapper Rick Lovato, and then during the second half, he effectively ended any speculation as to whether or not the team should bring in another camp leg.

On a play that would eventually be called back due to a penalty, Johnston wailed the ball an  amazing 82 yards. Just for context, Jones’ longest career kick was only for 80 yards, and it happened all the way back in 2007.

Sure, it’s only the preseason, and the kick won’t even show up on Johnston’s stats sheet, but it’s a pretty remarkable feat nonetheless. And based on Johnston’s college numbers, should we even really be that surprised?

As the winner of the Eddleman-Fields Big Ten Punter of the Year award in 2016, the 5-foot-11 former Buckeye averaged 46.7 yards per punt in his senior year in Columbus, the fifth best mark of any punter in the country.

While this impressive average obviously wasn’t enough to get Cameron drafted, Johnston’s composure, live leg and ability to execute a flawless directional punt could make him a serious weapon for Dave Fipp’s special teams unit moving forward.

And that’s not even mentioning his biggest trump card, being left-footed.

Call it inconsequential if you’d like, but almost every almost every kicker in the NFL right now is right foot dominant, which means that most punt returners almost never get an opportunity to practice hauling in punts from a left footed punter. Though this may not seem like a huge deal, having to adjust on the fly to the ball coming off a different leg, with a different spin, and a different trajectory could cause some momentary doubt in an inexperienced returnman, potentially resulting in a whiffed punt. It won’t happen often, but even if the Eagle special teams unit can force one errant return a season, that could help the team secure an extra win, which is something I’m sure most punters dream of.

This is a trick that Bill Belichick has almost exclusively utilized over his tenure as head coach in New England. If it works for him, why not try that same tactic in the City of Brotherly Love?

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So as Philly continues to evaluate their talent and put together a final 53-man roster, it looks like we can safely pencil in Cameron Johnston as the team’s starting punter moving forward, as the ball appears firmly in his court.