The Los Angeles Rams selected safety John Johnson III out of Boston College in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Since then, he’s only become one of the best young safeties in the NFL. Johnson has done nothing but continue to impress in Los Angeles and he’s next in our roster preview series.
Johnson improved in every aspect of his game as he became a full-time starter in Wade Phillips’ defense. The Rams safety played in nearly 400 more snaps and got signficantly better as a tackler and in pass coverage. His 86.1 grade in coverage was the sixth best in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus.
The Rams’ second-year safety started his season with an interception against the Oakland Raiders. With the Rams trailing, 10-7, Johnson intercepted Derek Carr that led to a field goal to tie the game in the second quarter. While his three other interceptions during the regular season won’t be remembered, it’s the one in the postseason that was the biggest of them all.
With the New Orleans Saints driving in overtime, quarterback Drew Brees was his as he threw, sending a floater up in the air. Johnson was right there to get the interception and give the Rams the ball. Jared Goff then led the Rams down the field to score the game-winning field goal and send the Rams to the Super Bowl.
There will be no roster battle here. Johnson will be the Rams’ undisputed starting safety and take the majority of the snaps on the other side of the combination of Eric Weddle and Taylor Rapp.
Three Plays On Tape
Really liking how the Rams played Zach Ertz this week. In the redzone, got bracket coverage from JJ3 and Talib. Awesome PBU from John Johnson. pic.twitter.com/rFXAAapP91
— Sosa K (@QBsMVP) December 19, 2018
If Johnson isn’t there, this is a touchdown. Johnson improved significantly in coverage last season and showed he can go up against the best tight ends and wide receivers in the league.
Can’t get enough of this Design from Sean Payton!
▪️FB Flare to the Field
▪️RB Swing Screen to the Boundary
▪️Nub TE Slip Middle
?Beautiful Pocket Movement & Ball Fakes from Drew Brees!
?Impressive Play Recognition & Tackling from Rams SS John Johnson too! pic.twitter.com/PbMZ32yfEn
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) February 21, 2019
This is an impressive play by Johnson. The Saints have a lot going on during this play and Johnson is able to stay at home and make the open field tackle. This play shows Johnson’s understanding of the defense and his awareness and comfort level on the field. Another young safety might bite on the action as Drew Brees is one of the all-time great quarterbacks, but Johnson makes the play and keeps this to a mid-level gain.
JOHN JOHNSON OVERTIME INTERCEPTION ??? RAMS BALL
….and he breaks out the CHOPPA dance in NOLA ?pic.twitter.com/OMtH40Vb44
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) January 20, 2019
This comes from the same game, but it’s impossible not to include it. To make this play as he’s falling backwards shows incredible athleticism and focus. If Johnson doesn’t make this difficult play, who knows what happens.
Can Johnson elevate his game to be among the game’s elite?
Johnson is one of the best young safeties in the game, but he’s still in that second tier of safeties. He still needs to improve as a run defender and take that next step in coverage to be among the top-5. He’s right there, but there’s still work to be done if he’s to make a Pro Bowl and earn the accolades that the league’s best safeties earn. Playing next to Eric Weddle won’t hurt.
2019 Outlook and Role
Johnson will be the starting safety of the Los Angeles Rams for a third straight season and look for him to take that next step. The third-year safety is on the cusp of greatness and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him achieve that in 2019.
Chances of Making Final Roster
There is zero chance that Johnson doesn’t make this roster. He’s the team’s starting safety and has proven that he can produce at the NFL level. The only questions that should be asked is when and how much are the Rams going to pay him?