Interesting to note, out of all the 1st and 2nd year talent coming to camp for the Eagles this summer, Pro Football Focus chose to put a spotlight on wideout Damaris Johnson as the player with the biggest upside in the Chippa's new system.
You can link to the entire article here at https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/06/06/secret-superstar-damaris-johnson/
The article is by John Breitenbach and he makes a pretty convincing case for why we (or at least I) may have been underrating "DJ Lite" as a potential big-play contributor in 2013 from the slot receiver position.
One thing I overlooked apparently is the ability of Damaris to block downfield. Receivers who can block are a big deal in Kelly's offense. Breitenbach says Damaris is a much better blocker than DJax or Maclin….and on a par with Avant in blocking ability.
"If practices are anything to go by, then the receivers will have to block if they are to play. That spells trouble for the likes of Maclin. Jason Avant shouldn’t be concerned over his blocking ability but his lack of versatility and dynamism could be an issue at a position where Kelly demands both. "
Last season, if nothing else, Damaris Johnson proved his versatility.
"Johnson put his 235 snaps to good use. He displayed his versatility by lining up in the backfield, out wide, and in the slot. Despite carrying the ball just three times, Johnson graded positively on two of those carries. Both times he showed good acceleration to pick up first downs. Three carries is obviously not much to go on but Johnson’s experience in multiple roles will certainly give Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur options."
Overall, Damaris caught 19 of his 28 targets for 256 yards (105 YAC) with no drops and five forced missed tackles. To put that in perspective, Maclin had just three forced missed tackles in 68 receptions, while Avant also had three but in 53 grabs. No receiver with at least five forced missed tackles played as few snaps as Johnson’s 235.
Johnson also found a way to contribute on special teams. He wasn’t great in that respect, gaining a modest +1.4 grade but he did break one to the house to give the Eagles a chance late against the Cowboys. Johnson’s average of 11.2 yards per return also put him in the Top 20 in the league. Not much went right for Philadelphia’s special teams in 2012 but their rookie punt returner did a good job on the whole.
Trying to read the Chippah's mind about Damaris' future fit into this offense is not easy, since Kelly is holding his cards very close to his vest. But Breitenbach goes out on a limb for Damaris:
" I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson is one of the players Kelly is most excited about working with. He’s obviously not the best receiver on the team but he has the potential to give the Eagles’ offense incredible flexibility. Whether he’s lined up in the backfield, as a receiver, or deep as a punt returner, Johnson clearly has good vision and knows how to do the little things to generate yardage. "
Thanks to PFF and Breitenbach, I will have a slightly sharper "focus" on Damaris Johnson at training camp.
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Chances are you'll be hearing a rumor floating around the next few days about Leonard Weaver and his public speculation that "not all the veteran players are buying in to Kelly's new system"…
You mean there could be players who are not absolutely pleased with the way Kelly is running the team? Or players who are upset there are no more "Taco Tuesdays" ?
To this I say "Good".
If ever there were a team that needed a shake-up and a shake-out after ten years of "the same old", it is the Eagles. So if Weaver is correct in his speculation, then I'm glad there are veterans who are feeling uncomfortable. I'm thrilled there are some who are disgruntled. Nothing good was ever going to come out of their prior comfort zone.