The Buffalo Bills have added a lo of new faces already this offseason but so far only one on defense, cornerback Kevin Johnson. A former first-round pick of the Houston Texans, Johnson’s career has been routinely derailed by injuries. The Bills are hoping he’ll achieve his potential in Western New York, likely battling Levi Wallace for a starting role.
The Texans most commonly asked Kevin Johnson to play off the line using zone concepts like we see here. Johnson is somewhat susceptible to sharper route running like this pattern. Comebacks and hitches—really, any time a receiver stops or turns—quickly were similarly a problem. Large cushions and this weakness are something that are potentially exploitable.
The concerns noted above shouldn’t be treated as a universal issue. Despite that sometime-problem, Kevin Johnson has the physical tools and football IQ to quickly turn and drive toward a target. In this play, Johnson correctly identifies the ball is not coming to his initial assignment and turns back to make the play. Good closing speed prevents a few extra yards.
Let’s check in on Johnson and see how he handles a receiver who’s not cutting back toward the line of scrimmage. We see Johnson reading the receiver well again, identifying that it’s time for speed. Once that’s been determined, he covers it well.
Johnson diagnoses the play quickly again and gets outside to shut the door on the run. Johnson is there ahead of the ball carrier. Diving for the tackle, Johnson makes enough contact to get a trip and credit for the tackle.
That last tackle looked a little off, but perhaps having to cut back at a weird angle is to blame. Let’s take a look at a more direct hit. That looks better and Kevin Johnson makes the open field tackle. Notice how he rotates around the receiver. Johnson often contacts with his arm more than his shoulder, which helps create that rotation. It may sound a bit like a broken record, but his play diagnosis and closing speed are both good.
Here’s a better look at how he tackles. Aiming low, the bicep is the first point of contact. Because Kevin Johnson is able to latch around a leg, the tackle is successful.
Here we have one of those occasional breakdowns alluded to in Play 1. The initial backpedal slows Kevin Johnson enough where the quick pass is an easy pitch-and-catch. We see the same tackle style as above and this time he slips right off as he rotates around.
Near the end zone, a cornerback might be the last barrier to a touchdown. We see the arm tackle come back to haunt Kevin Johnson again.
The Texans didn’t have Kevin Johnson play a lot of press coverage. Although the sample size is quite small, Johnson seemed to do better playing like this. Johnson was better able to handle quick cuts and finesse moves matched up in this manner and managed to get a little contact in.
Kevin Johnson flashes traits that explain why he was a first-round pick not too long ago. Play diagnosis and rapid responses are major positives. Some flaws in his game are concerning though. Buffalo fans are used to seeing chunk plays and broken tackles against the Bills and it’d be great if that could end as soon as possible. Injuries, which are another concern, may have derailed his progress in Houston. The Bills are willing to gamble on Johnson and why not? The current front office has shown aptitude in identifying talent in the secondary and getting the most out of those players. With any luck, they’ve done it again.