The Buffalo Bills have a solid secondary full of talented young players. One of the problem areas has been in the slot, and not due to a lack of talent, but a lack of good health. In 2018 and 2019, the player slated to take the majority of the snaps at slot corner missed nine games due to a variety of injuries.
Regardless of one’s talent, the old saying goes that one’s best ability is his availability, so missing time put the Bills’ defense in tough spot after tough spot. In 2020, though, that top slot corner stayed healthy, and he had a career year as a result.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile Buffalo’s nickel corner.
Name: Taron Johnson
Height/Weight: 5’11” 192 lbs
Age: 24 (25 on 7/27/2021)
Experience/Draft: 4; selected by Buffalo in the fourth round (No. 121 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft
College: Weber State
Acquired: Fourth-round choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Johnson enters the final year of his rookie contract, a four-year pact worth $3,106,068. For the 2021 season, Johnson carries a cap hit of $2,344,517; the Bills are on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $161,517 if he is released.
2020 Recap: Healthy for the full slate of games for the first time in his career, Johnson was a linchpin to Buffalo’s defense. He finished with 94 tackles, good for third on the team, as well as seven pass breakups, a forced fumble, a sack, five tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and an interception. The pick resulted in a 51-yard return for a touchdown that completely swung the momentum in Buffalo’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the postseason, Johnson made an even bigger play, intercepting Lamar Jackson in the end zone and returning it 101 yards for a touchdown to give the Bills a 17-3 lead over the Baltimore Ravens that they would not relinquish.
Positional outlook: Johnson is set to serve as the Bills’ top slot corner again, though the team has added some competition and/or insurance in the event that Johnson can’t be retained in the offseason. Buffalo has Cam Lewis, Siran Neal, and Rachad Wildgoose Jr. who primarily play in the slot. Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Dane Jackson, Nick McCloud, and Olaijah Griffin round out the positional group.
2021 Offseason: Johnson is healthy and he attended OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: Barring some sort of injury, Johnson should once again slot in as a nominal base starter given Buffalo’s (and the league’s) propensity to align in a nickel defense. After a solid third season, continued good health and strong play will only help Johnson to earn a big free-agent contract in the 2022 offseason. As it stands, however, he is another strong defender on what promises to be a strong Bills defense.