Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Lane Johnson's Extraordinary New Kick Step

By John Turney
Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Earlier this season I posted on Twitter a still shot of Lane Johnson's kick step which seemed extremely exaggerated. A kick step is simply a backward step by an offensive lineman, especially an offensive tackle, takes to prepare for pass blocking a defender.

Seeing it on film was intriguing because in watching quite a lot of football over the years I couldn't remember a kick step like this—not even on Johnson in his previous seasons.

So, I checked and here is a still shot from Johnson's rookie year with Michael Vick at the helm of the offense. I was able to capture Johnson's step at it's most extreme in all of the following stills. You can see it is a normal step, one you might see on lots of offensive tackles.
Here, 2014, with Nick Foles quarterbacking, you can see the same kick step.
Again, in 2015, his step is pronounced but nothing out of the ordinary in the following two shots with Sam Bradford quarterbacking.

I watched all the Eagles games in 2016 on the All-22 film to make sure I hadn't missed anything and nowhere did I find anything but the same kick step Johnson used from 2013-15.

Here is a view from the end zone camera that essentially depicts what has been shown in the previous four stills posted above. Again, just a pronounced, but normal kick step. If you review all the 2016 games you will find pretty much this same thing. When Johnson uses the kick sep technique, it will look like this.
So, after making sure nothing was missed (and I think I would have made a note to myself had I seen what is about to be shown in the next set of stills) let's jump to 2017 and the reason I made my original post to Twitter.
As you can see at the end of the arrow Johnson is really throwing back his outside foot. Below is the end zone view of the same play:
Here is a still from the Cardinal game:
And the end zone view:

Here is a still from the television feed of the same play.
Here is a shot from the Denver game. His leg is parallel to the turf:
And the end zone view:
Here is a good view of same play from the television feed.
Credit for all stills:  NFL Gamepass, Fair use claim for education and criticism
It's certainly impressive, athletically. This week the Eagles face the Rams and the Rams have an excellent tackle named Andrew Whitworth and I think his leg would fall off if he tried it. For one he's 36-years old and for another, he doesn't kick step. He just quickly steps to the side and usually short sets in pass production. And even in the rare instances, he does kick step, it's even less pronounced than the first four stills posted above.

Presumably, it serves the purpose of getting back to the deep-set spot quicker than the smaller, less vigorous kick steps he's used in the past. Maybe sometime in the future we can discuss it's advantages and origins and what percentage of the time he uses it and why doesn't he use it all the time. Things like that would be fun to find out.

One thing I do regret about Pro Football Journal not being able to be in more cities and having access to players is not being able to ask players about things such as this. Whether it's a kick step, a slap and rip move on a pass rush or anything else, to tell a complete story you have to interview the coaches and players. So, we will attempt to do so, and if the Eagles are in the Super Bowl I will be standing by Lane Johnson's podium waiting for the chance to ask why he uses such an exaggerated kick step and why he added it to his repertoire in 2017.

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