Philadelphia Eagles: Patrick Johnson has earned a roster spot

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

When Patrick Johnson pulled up after a defensive play clutching his upper arm/shoulder area in the back half of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ preseason finale against the New York Jets, it felt like a major league bummer.

Though the injury, potentially suffered via a poorly placed Shaun Bradley helmet, ultimately wasn’t deemed serious enough to keep Johnson out of the game entirely, as he returned not too much later to continue his defensive efforts, it stung a bit more than most second-half injuries in a preseason finale injuries because of just how well he’d played through the first few games of the preseason.

I mean, we’re talking about a former seventh-round pick who holds the honor of having the most career sacks in the history of Tulane’s football program – 21.0, if you care – who then had to transition off-ball to linebacker full time and fight for a roster spot at a position he only moonlighted at during his college career. If that’s not a guy to want to root for, I don’t know who is.

And now, with preseason in the books and the widdling process of going from 80 to 53 players firmly underway, one thing is unquestionably clear: Patrick Johnson deserves a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles roster this fall.

If Patrick Johnson hasn’t earned a spot with the Philadelphia Eagles, who has?

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In college, Patrick Johnson was Tulane’s best player.

Though he largely played edge rusher either with both hands on the ground or from a standing position, the Green Wave’s head coach, Willie Fritz, routinely experimented with moving Johnson around the formation as a defensive chess piece; rushing off the edge on one play and lining up out wide to cover Kenneth Gainwell on a screen play the next.

Fun fact: Patrick Johnson actually did cover Kenneth Gainwell when Tulane took on Memphis back in 2019. You can watch the entire game here.

Despite measuring in at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, and recording solid enough numbers at the NFL combine – finishing in the top 70th of better percentiles in 3-cone drill, broad jump, vertical jump, 40-yard dash, and 10-yard split among edge rushers according to Mockdraftable – few teams were particularly high on selecting the short-armed rusher out of Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 2021 NFL Draft and his chances of making an NFL roster looked very much up in the air by the middle of Day 3.

Fortunately, Howie Roseman and his staff swooped in and, despite having already drafted two rushers in the previous rounds, opted to make Johnson the ninth and final member of the team’s 2021 NFL Draft class, picking him over players like Tre Norwood, Jermar Jefferson, and Kary Vincent Jr.

Tasked with learning a new, hybrid defensive position that requires everything from dropping into coverage against the pass, to attacking the line against the run, and even being deployed as a rusher from all over various formations, Johnson has largely found a home backing up Genard Avery so far this summer, where his “master of none” knock coming out of college has actually turned into a bit of a calling card.

Have the results been perfect? No, but they’ve been good enough to justify giving Johnson a ton of playing time in each of the team’s three preseason contests and to position him better than players like JaCoby Stevens and Marlon Tuipulotu, both of whom were drafted higher yet haven’t flashed nearly as much during the preseason for one reason or another when it comes to making the 53 man roster.

Even if Avery is the logical choice to be the team’s third starter at linebacker and Ryan Kerrigan is expected to earn some looks at Jonathan Gannon’s new hybrid SAM/LEO role that has been lauded throughout training camp, Johnson’s developments and on-field play are still valuable,and thus deserve to be further built upon over the forthcoming weeks.

Worst-case scenario, Johnson becomes a fixture of the Birds game day roster this fall as a special teams ace. For a 23-year-old former seventh-round pick out of Tulane, that “worst-case scenario” certainly wouldn’t be the worst outcome imaginable.

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So will Patrick Johnson ultimately make the Philadelphia Eagles’ initial 53 man roster? Maybe. Should he make the Philadelphia Eagles’ initial 53 man roster? Yes. Yes. 100 percent yes. While he may not be 100 percent ready for prime time just yet, the amount of growth shown from the pride of Tulane University so far this summer is rather staggering, and Howie Roseman would be incredibly foolish to risk losing such a prized project to a crafty waiver wire claim in order to try to sneak him on the practice squad. Some players are worthy of a roster spot full stop, and this former Green Wave surfer(?) is one of them.