DeSean Jackson will miss the third and final set of OTAs of the Philadelphia Eagles this week to attend to family matters. The Pro Bowl wideout’s absence will give younger receivers more opportunity to show what they can do.
One player that has received quite a lot of buzz the past few weeks is Damaris Johnson. Johnson (5-8, 170) was a receiver and returner at Tulsa and was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Birds. He came out of college with some impressive stats in the return game: He is the NCAA’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage (7,796) and kickoff return yardage (3,417). During his time at Tulsa, Johnson racked up 150 plays of 20+ yards.
Johnson has already earned notice from quarterback Mike Vick, who praised his work ethic saying that Johnson, “can go hard every single play. Each and every play, he’ll give you everything he has.”
Johnson has been a standout at practices due to his speed and stealthiness. The Wilmington News-Journal’s Geoff Mosher thinks that Johnson could be this year’s Cinderella story.
For those curious about this year’s Cinderella story, the best candidate so far is tiny wide receiver Damaris Johnson. Teammates have compared him to DeSean Jackson, mainly because of Johnson’s size and frame – 5-foot-8, 175 pounds – and dynamic return ability.
Johnson makes sharp cuts and gets out of his breaks especially quick for a rookie. His speed is top notch. He looks very comfortable in the offense and just seems like the kind of guy that Andy Reid finds room for. If Johnson can raise eyebrows on the return teams during the preseason, I don’t think he’ll have trouble making the roster.
Johnson received all of this praise with DeSean present, so expect him to really break out and show what he can do as a receiver and a returner this week.
Of course, there is still a long way to go until the final roster. However, as Johnson can make an impact in two critical phases of the game if he keeps working as hard and performing as well as he has been in Eagles practices, a spot on the roster is his to loose.
Below is video of Johnson playing Hawaii in 2010. He looks positively DeSean-eque in some of the highlights. His speed and elusiveness are readily apparent. You can easily see why the Eagles were interested in giving Johnson a closer look, and why he will be an exciting possibility for the team should the ability he’s shown in OTAs to perform at a high level while learning a new offense all the while stepping up to the level of play required of the NFL continue.
Mike Vick quote via the Philadelphia Eagles