For the older generation of Los Angeles Rams fans, it’s like déjà vu to have a guy named John Johnson lining up at strong safety.
The previous Johnny Johnson was a 1st round pick in the 1980 NFL Draft and spent more than nine seasons with in horns while the contemporary Johnson arrived in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft last season. His selection came as somewhat of a surprise to many Rams fans who expected S Maurice Alexander to hold the safety position down after a strong 2016 season. However, Alexander struggled early in the new defensive scheme brought by Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, and by Week 5 Johnson took over the starting role. Alexander was waived not long after.
Johnson ended up providing a ton of value for a 3rd round pick ending up with a PFF grade of 85.9 which equates to a high-quality starter. The only rookie safety to perform slightly better was New Orleans Saints S Marcus Williams who turned in a solid season despite the unwanted notoriety he gained from the Minneapolis Miracle. PFF also had Johnson ranked as the 8th best rookie, regardless of position, but you don’t really need analytics to know the Johnson can play. He ended up starting 11 games and recording 75 tackles, along with 11 pass deflections.
This season he will be part of LA’s revamped secondary, and will look to continue to improve at reading plays and positioning, particularly when matched up against larger players.
With plenty of contract talks looming for the Rams, it is a luxury to have strong performances from young players like Johnson who have a ways to go before cashing in.
If Johnson continues to improve while staying healthy, he will be fun to watch on the field. He will be starting next to S Lamarcus Joyner forming what should be a excellent safety net for Phillips’ defense. Behind Johnson and Joyner are backups Blake Countess (roster preview), Marqui Christian (roster preview), Isaiah Johnson (roster preview) and several rookies: Nate Holley (roster preview), Afolabi Laguda (roster preview) and Steven Parker (roster preview).
While we recently witnessed the regression of Alexander, expect Johnson to continue to ascend this season as he continues to find comfort in the Rams’ defense and build synergy with the dandy accumulation of talent around him. While he is currently the most unheralded member of the Rams secondary, it seems entirely possible that he could quietly become one of the unit’s most productive players.
Chances Of Making The Final Roster (9.8743526/10)
So long as he doesn’t ask Rams Head Coach Sean McVay’s girlfiend Veronika Khomym out to a movie and doesn’t publicly denounce Phillips’ book, Son Of Bum, John Johnson III will be on the team.