Can Lonnie Johnson Jr. earn a starting role with the Houston Texans?
The Houston Texans selected a cornerback in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but can he earn a starter’s role once Week 1 rolls around?
When the Houston Texans selected Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, they made a clear statement to the rest of the cornerback roster that things need to improve, or things will be changing.
In their most recent depth chart of the Houston Texans, OurLads.com has Johnson as the top reserve cornerback to veteran cornerback Aaron Colvin, whom the Texans signed as a free agent last year. Colvin didn’t pan out in his first year with the Texans — he played four previous seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars — so improvement to the cornerback position is key for the Texans to get back to the playoffs and actually win in 2019.
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Colvin played in 10 games last season in his first year with the Texans, but just two of those games were starts. Colvin, whom the previous season had five passes defensed in 2017, totaled just one pass defensed in 2018 while in the secondary of the Texans.
The cornerback Colvin also made 29 tackles (22 solo) and has not recorded an interception in his first five years as an NFL player.
That brings in Johnson, as the Texans should have high hopes for him to eventually become a big part of the secondary, whether it be this season or next season, but at some point in 2019 Johnson will need to make an impact for the Texans’ defense.
In a recent article on the OTAs of the Texans, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle spotlighted the rookie cornerback, quoting teammate Justin Reid on Johnson:
"“He’s a big kid, almost bigger than me. You see it when he plays. You see it on the practice film. He knows how to use it as well, which is one of the good things about having good corners, is they know how to actually body receivers, especially if they’re going against a big guy.”"
That is good news for the Texans, as they really do need to have a player like Johnson in the mix for the secondary to have success. It will be tough for Johnson to be a starter once Week 1 arrives, but if he continues to show the potential he possesses — and even more so, shows success — Johnson might be able to jump Colvin on the depth chart.
At Kentucky, Johnson is described in his NFL.com draft profile as a player who has a chance to become a starter. Johnson ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and has a vertical jump measured at 38 inches, plus the same draft profile by Lance Zierlein said:
"“Has physical traits to become much more effective from press … Shows flashes of aggression to become better in run support …”"
This position battle with the cornerbacks of the Texans should be exciting once training camp arrives in late July. Texans fans had better be ready to see if this rookie can make the coaches notice him even more than usual, as Johnson should challenge the current players who are penciled in as a starter at cornerback.