Eagles rookie wants to be a ‘menace' on special teams

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If Eagles sixth-round pick Kyron Johnson wants to see the field during his rookie season, he knows what he’ll need to do.

He’ll need to prove himself on special teams.

“Special teams is the main thing because that’s my goal,” Johnson said last week, ‘to be this No. 1 special teamer, the dude that you see flying down like a bullet. I want to be that dude everybody knows. When it comes to special teams, just say Kyron Johnson.”

Johnson, 23, said his love for special teams goes back to his freshman football season in Arlington, Texas. It was a way for him to get on the field in high school and it became a way for him to get on the field at Kansas. In his freshman season in 2017, Johnson played in 12 games without a start and was a key special teams contributor, even forcing a fumble at Texas.

So now, as a sixth-round pick, he knows special teams is going to be a major part of his job duties as a rookie. He expects to be on every special teams unit, Johnson said last week at Eagles rookie camp.

“Every special teams that I’ve been in, I’ve just been that menace,” Johnson said. “I want to wreak havoc and I want to let people know that special teams ain’t just some stuff you just blow off. It’s actually the main component when it comes to offense and defense. It’s the third one that actually puts everything together.”

Johnson (6-0, 235) is a bit of a tweener. He played defensive end for the Jayhawks but the Eagles are calling him a linebacker. Basically, he expects to be in the SAM linebacker position that Haason Reddick fills for the Eagles. So at times, he’ll be asked to drop but, for the most part, he’s a pass rusher.

But on defense, Johnson will likely be battling for the backup SAM position with last year’s seventh-round pick Patrick Johnson, among others. Even if he wins that backup role and earns a roster spot, Kyron Johnson will need to be a huge contributor on special teams.

At least he has the athletic makeup to do it.

Despite a strong 2021 season, Johnson was a surprising snub from the combine. But his performance at the Kansas pro day showed off his athleticism. Here’s a look at some of Johnson’s numbers and where they would have ranked among linebackers at this year’s combine:

40-yard dash: 4.40 seconds (1st)

Vertical jump: 39 1/2 inches (t-5th)

Broad jump: 10 feet (t-19th)

3-cone drills: 6.98 seconds (2nd)

Even if there was some home cooking at the pro day, it’s pretty clear the Eagles took a shot on a sixth-round pick with the type of athleticism that gives him big upside. After all, Johnson was on an awful football team in college and it’s hard to shine on a team that won just nine total games in Johnson’s five years at the university.

While Johnson didn’t get an invite to the combine, he was a late addition to the Senior Bowl and the Eagles got a really good look at him that week. It’s possible his performance in Mobile helped him get drafted.

That week, he went against some really good — and much bigger — offensive linemen and got the best of them.

“A lot of people think that because I’m small, I can’t get after O-linemen,” Johnson said, “but that’s something I’m here to prove wrong.”

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