Austin Johnson flying under the radar
By Will Lomas
Should we be paying more attention to 2016 2nd round pick, Austin Johnson?
We are getting dangerous close to the doldrums of the offseason over the next few weeks. One name that is coming up more frequently for the Tennessee Titans than I thought is Austin Johnson.
In case you don’t remember, in the 2016 NFL Draft the Tennessee Titans ended up with three, 2nd round picks. Sandwiched between the bigger names of Kevin Dodd and Derrick Henry, was defensive lineman Austin Johnson.
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In college, Johnson was an athletic nose tackle with size (6’4, 315) that had a lot of tools. He looked like he was putting it all together after a senior year where he had 15 TFLs and 6.5 sacks.
However, a slow start to camp and the logjam at defensive line made Johnson more of an afterthought throughout the 2016 season.
Now, I have heard everyone from Mike Keith to Bleacher Report bring up Johnson’s name as someone to watch.
In fact, it was a Bleacher Report article that really made me go back and look at what Johnson could be for this team.
In that article they describe why Johnson is poised to become a starter by the end of the season saying,
“See, [Sylvester] Williams can wreak havoc, but he has struggled in run defense. Pro Football Focus ranked him 68th in that discipline among 73 qualified 4-3 defensive tackles last season.
Meanwhile, as PFF noted, Johnson “ranked third among the nation’s interior defensive linemen against the run at plus-36.9 in 2015 after finishing 33rd in 2014 at plus-16.8.” The Penn State product also posted a positive grade in run defense in limited action last season in Tennessee.”
Earlier in the offseason we heard rumblings about Sylvester Williams moving around on the DL from 5-tech to nose tackle depending on the situation.
If the Tennessee Titans look at Johnson the way that the quote above says they should, then maybe Johnson could be the team team’s lead interior defender in terms of snaps.
On base downs, Williams can rotate at 5-tech with Daquan Jones depending on the team, and then he can kick inside next to Jurrell Casey on passing downs. Jones would get the bulk of the snaps and Williams could offer a change up on the edge.
I think Williams can be a serviceable nose tackle, but if Austin Johnson develops then I like this idea even more. It gives the Titans a real anchor in the middle to keep players off of the linebackers and it allows Dick LeBeau to exploit mismatches on the edges.