One player who everyone should be looking forward to watching on Sunday’s for the Houston Texans each week in 2021 is Lonnie Johnson Jr., who is entering his third season in the NFL.
Johnson has had some changes during his first two years with the Texans as he’s had two different defensive coordinators in joining the league in ’19 as a second-round draft pick, with Romeo Crennel being the DC in 2019, and he was followed by Anthony Weaver as the defensive coordinator in ’20. Johnson has also moved from cornerback to safety in his career.
For Johnson, he has a whole new system to learn in ’21 as the Houston Texans hired another new coordinator, that being Lovie Smith, so it will be interesting to see how – not if – he adds to his improved season from ’20.
In ’20, Johnson played in 16 games, finishing with 76 total tackles, with 56 of those being solo. The strong safety – who formerly was a cornerback – also was targeted 34 times in ’20, allowing just 26 receptions for the season. Compare that to his rookie season when he was targeted 52 times, allowing 33 receptions.
His overall grade by Pro Football Focus was much improved from year one to year two, as his first season with the Houston Texans franchise saw his overall grade be just 36.0. Then came year two where his coverage play improved, raising Johnson’s overall grade to 65.5.
For a team that is in a big-time roster rebuild, Johnson is a player whom all of us should be excited to watch in ’21. The Texans are going to need the strong safety to be at his very best, and if he and the rest of the secondary can play at a high level in the Tampa 2 defense of Smith, who knows? Maybe the defense can surprise their opponents.
Houston Texans: So much more ahead in year three for Lonnie Johnson Jr.
The upcoming third season for Lonnie Johnson Jr. just might be his best yet. When Chris Harris was a strong safety for the Chicago Bears in their NFC championship year of 2006, he had a season in the Tampa 2 defense of two interceptions with 44 solo tackles, and five passes defensed.
Johnson in this defense could have a season like that as he had zero passes defensed in ’20 and no interceptions. Johnson is taller and weighs about the same as Harris did during his second season under Smith’s defense, so the comparison is fun to see.
Though Harris played for a better defense than what the Houston Texans currently have, Johnson still has a great opportunity in front of him to add to his career totals and make even more strides in ’21.
Johnson is possibly THE player to watch on the defense in ’21, though Ross Blacklock is drawing attention as well. Seeing Johnson be coached by Smith will hopefully be what the defense needs to be a better overall unit.
The secondary of the Texans didn’t have the best season as an entire unit, but Johnson was one of the few standouts on the defense as a whole.
Johnson works hard at his craft, and that alone makes you want to see success for the safety in ’21. If he does have his best season yet, that means the Houston Texans defense will be much better, too.