The New York Jets selected former Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II with the No. 26 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Johnson was a part-time contributor as a rookie on a defensive line that recorded an impressive 45.0 sacks. Johnson is now tasked with taking a significant step forward in what may be a make-or-break season in 2023.
Johnson was the third of the Jets’ trio of first-round picks. The other two, Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson, won Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year, respectively. Johnson didn’t quite reach those heights.
Johnson was brought along slowly compared to his rookie counterparts. He played a total of 312 defensive snaps as a rotational defensive end. Johnson made 14 regular-season appearances with zero starts. Johnson ultimately wrapped up his rookie campaign by recording 29 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus credited Johnson with 14 quarterback pressures, nine hurries, and two additional quarterback hits. He also blocked a punt that resulted in a safety. The production can be summarized as modest.
The Jets were patient with Johnson, who entered the league after playing just one complete season at Florida State after separate stints at Georgia and Independence CC (JUCO). Johnson played more than 50% of defensive snaps just once all season, and it didn’t happen until Week 17. Will that patience continue to run its course in 2023? The Jets’ offseason approach left us wondering about their view of Johnson’s long-term potential.
The Jets drafted former Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV with the No. 15 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Last year’s starters were Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers, both of whom are returning to the Jets in 2023. You can never have enough pass rushers, but what exactly will Johnson’s role be following the addition of McDonald? Johnson’s current standing with the Jets is complicated.
Perhaps McDonald’s drafting had nothing to do with Johnson. After all, Lawson is entering a fate-deciding contract season and may not be in the Jets’ 2024 team-building plans. However, drafting a first-round edge rusher one year after drafting a first-round edge rusher doesn’t typically reflect well on the previous draftee.
The Jets have high expectations for themselves in 2023. They acquired Canton-bound quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers’ arrival immediately places the Jets in win-now mode. It may even be Super Bowl or bust this season because there’s no guarantee Rodgers returns for 2024. It means the Jets can’t afford to be patient with Johnson and other young players. They’ll play whoever is ready to make an immediate difference. Can Johnson earn more of Robert Saleh’s trust?
To be completely fair, Johnson isn’t entering a true make-or-break season. He’ll likely appear on the Jets’ 2024 roster regardless of his 2023 efforts. His leash is long given his first-round label and he did look the part in spurts as a rookie. But most notable NFL defenders will have flashed game-changing potential before the conclusion of their sophomore campaign. Johnson’s year-two progress is worth monitoring.
- Sep 29, 2023
- Sep 29, 2023