On Wednesday, Jeff McLane put out the inaugural Damaris Johnson hype piece of 2013. If you’ll remember, Johnson was something of a revelation last offseason after the Eagles signed him as undrafted free agent (and paid a premium, unprecedented price to secure his services). Despite a slight, DeSean Jackson-esque frame, he impressed in camps and preseason with his soft hands and electrifying jitterbugness (not a word — yet) in the open field. Andy Reid even made the DeSean Jackson comparison (a poor man’s DeSean is more apt, due to lack of 4.3 speed). People wondered if the little guy opening eyes, who held the NCAA record for total all-purpose yards after his junior season and missed his senior year because of an unfortunate embezzlement episode, might burrow his way into the regular offense. There were some instances of that, there should have been more. Johnson had flashes of brilliance, sprinkled in with dangerous punt return moments that gave us heart attacks. But hey, without such antics we wouldn’t have been privy to the 98-yard beauty against the Cowboys (not for the win, but to cover the spread at least!). Given Damaris’s visibility and displays of scintillating ability, I was surprised when McLane wrote:
[Maclin] singled out Damaris Johnson, the small and speedy receiver who made the roster last season as an undrafted rookie but hardly did enough to suggest a quantum leap in Year 2.
Ok, the word “quantum” is pretty significant, but didn’t Damaris Johnson in fact do enough in his rookie season to suggest he could make some kind of sizable leap? There were definitely fans and writers alike out there who surmised that Johnson’s skill set would fit in a Chip Kelly-designed offense. Even Damaris himself felt that way:
“When I heard that Coach Kelly got hired, the one thing that just lit up in my mind was thinking, ‘Oh, man, it’s going to be a spread offense. He’s going to give guys the chance to have the ball in space, and I know that that works to my advantage,’ ” Johnson said Wednesday.
Yesterday, Tommy Lawlor followed with an article on Iggles Blitz entitled “Wide Receiver Position is Wide Open,” expressing his excitement and lauding Johnson’s potential in the Eagles’ new offense. He opined that Damaris might steal Jason Avant’s position in the slot, citing the former’s superior YAC stats:
The WR I’m most excited about is Damaris Johnson. He could steal the primary slot role from Avant. Check out this Yards after catch stat, per ESPN:
Jason Avant – 53 catches – 167 yards after catch – 8 receptions of 20 or more yards
Damaris Johnson – 19 catches – 104 yards after catch – 4 receptions of 20 or more yards
Avant is averaging 3.15 YAC per reception. Johnson is at 5.47. Which guy do you want with the ball in his hands?