Needing a veteran presence in a very young secondary, the Los Angeles Rams brought back a familiar face: John Johnson III. They signed him on August 7, reuniting with the safety they drafted in the third round in 2017.
Fans loved the move when it was made, but it took a while for Johnson to get on the field – a surprising development for a player who had performed at such a high level during his first Rams tenure from 2017-2020.
In the first eight games of the season, he played nine total snaps on defense. In Week 9, he played 16 snaps. But on Sunday against the Seahawks, he was on the field for 46 defensive plays, or a season-high 71%.
That increase in playing time came at the expense of Russ Yeast, who went from playing between 92% and 100% of the snaps in the first nine games to playing just 22% on Sunday. Sean McVay shed some light on the change Monday, indicating that Johnson took longer than expected to get back in game shape and up to speed in Los Angeles. Coming out of the bye, Johnson is looking like the player the Rams expected him to be, so he’s carved out a bigger role for himself.
“I think John had earned the right to be able to get on the grass,” McVay said. “He had done a good job. He’s a guy that we had a lot of confidence in. I think there was a timetable that it took, maybe a little bit longer, to get himself back into the shape or feeling good, and some of the different things that are in alignment with the JJ that we know. I thought he did a really good job yesterday and then I thought Russ capitalized on the snaps that he did play and some crucial known passing situations for us.”
In his first extended look of the season, Johnson made three tackles and had one pass breakup. He didn’t miss any tackles, either, which is an issue that has plagued Yeast all season. In coverage, Johnson didn’t allow a reception on the two plays where he was targeted.
With Quentin Lake playing every snap, primarily as the slot defender, Johnson appears to be the second safety next to Jordan Fuller, with Yeast playing a reserve role.
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Title: After slow start, John Johnson III has finally earned bigger role with Rams
Author: Cameron DaSilva