The Houston Texans are taking a calculated approach with their 2019 second-round draft selection, cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.
The Houston Texans have slowly brought Lonnie Johnson Jr. along in his rookie season after playing two seasons of his collegiate football with the Kentucky Wildcats in the SEC. Johnson was forced to see playing time early with Aaron Colvin being axed after the season opener loss against the New Orleans Saints and Bradley Roby’s hamstring injury sidelining him for five games.
Johnson started in seven games this season with Houston going 5-2 in that stint but the Texans were still struggling with their cornerback depth coming into the season. They added Gareon Conley via trade from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a 2020 third-rounder and claimed Vernon Hargreaves after he was waived from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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Acquiring two young former first-round picks with more experience allowed the Texans to let him sit back and learn as a reserve. The Texans decided to roll forward with Johnathan Joseph, Roby, Conley, and Hargreaves at the cornerback rotation.
Johnson has had his ups and downs in his first season in the NFL but has 30 tackles and seven pass deflections to go in his ten games active in the defense. The Texans have opted to put him on special teams the last two games as he awaits another opportunity to break into the rotation.
Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel explained that Johnson hasn’t seen much playing time due to the players in front of him.
“Well, the thing is that we have some other guys who have played in the league on the team we’ve added since we had Lonnie, so they are doing pretty good.” Crennel added, “I tell Lonnie all the time, I say, ‘You’re still a rookie and you’ve still got a lot to learn.’
The Texans have been patient with Johnson in his rookie season and don’t have to force the issue of throwing him onto the field until he is ready to contribute to the secondary.
In the meantime, Johnson has the chance to learn from veterans such as Joseph and Roby, who have paid their dues since entering the league and can show Johnson the ropes of playing the position.
The future is still bright for Johnson and he could be in for a bigger role in 2020 with Roby and Joseph’s contracts expiring towards the conclusion of this season.