LAKE FOREST – So much for time to adjust to the NFL, especially when it comes to 2020.
By this time in a normal year, rookie Jaylon Johnson would have had four preseason games to give himself some idea of what to expect on opening week. But the pandemic stopped all of those contests, leaving practices as the only training for what’s to come in the regular season.
As a reserve or even a special teams player it would make things a bit nerve wracking. But Johnson will have the duty of starting opposite of Kyle Fuller at cornerback on Sunday against the Lions at Ford Field.
He won the competition for the spot, taking over the No. 1 spot after the season-ending injury to Artie Burns and holding onto it for the remainder of training camp. Now it’s up to him to perform againsts veteran Matthew Stafford and a Detroit offense looking to make a jump in 2020.
So does Johnson feel prepared for the challenge with only training camp workouts? He expressed confidence when meeting with the media this week, and gave some examples of what he thinks will prepare him for the challenge.
Johnson especially made sure to credit those on the offensive side of the ball for getting him ready for what’s to come on Sundays.
“Going up against Nick Foles and Mitch every day, it just pushes you to be better. Trying to figure out what offense will do to attack. Even going against Alan Robinson and all the top receivers that we have just pushes your game and elevates your game to the next level,” said Johnson. “Naturally going against good competition every day, I would say, elevated my game.”
He’ll have to do so if teams decide to throw more his way instead of towards Fuller, who has made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons. Stafford was enjoying a strong 2019 season (2,499 yards, 24 touchdowns to five interceptions) before injury ended his season after eight games.
He’s healthy in 2020 and with a solid group of receivers is hoping to take the Lions back to the playoffs. So Johnson is expecting he’ll look his way a number of times on Sunday, and won’t be alone the rest of the season.
“I would expect every quarterback to go after the rookie. That’s what I would do if I was the quarterback,” said Johnson when asked if Stafford would specifically throw his way a number of times since it’s his first game. “For me, it’s just about preparing myself to make plays in those positions.
“Even if I give up plays, just keep a strong mindset to keep pushing.”
That mentality will help as he learns NFL football on the fly over the next few weeks.
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