So far through free agency, the Chargers showed they’re determined to fix the interior of their defensive line by signing two young defensive tackles earlier this week.
On Wednesday, we touched on Sebastian Joseph-Day and what he brings to the Chargers with some help from Kenneth Arthur of Turf Show Times. Today, we’re getting to know a bit about Austin Johnson with some help some Ed Valentine of our Giants sister site, Big Blue View.
Johnson, a 6’4 314-pound tackle who earned his first starting job with the Giants this past season, recorded career highs across the board with 72 total tackles, six tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. He played all along the interior for the Giants and he’s likely set to do the same for the Chargers. He’s got the size to play nose, but don’t be surprised to see him play one of the end spots in the base front when the team goes big to stop the run.
But enough about what I think of him, we reached out to Ed for a reason, so here’s what we got regarding the Chargers’ newest defensive tackle.
1.) What kind of player are the Chargers getting in Johnson on the field? What kind of person is he off the field?
The Chargers are getting a workman-like pro entering his seventh season. He can do some things, but he won’t be a star. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Johnson and he’s a fairly quiet, likable guy. He will do his job for the Chargers and be a guy you don’t notice or talk about much.
2.) Johnson had a career year in 2021. How did he find success in the Giants’ defense?
Well, here’s where I wonder about the wisdom of really spending on Johnson. He was a second-round pick in Tennessee and never really became more than a rotational run-defending tackle.
The Giants signed him largely because his college coach, Sean Spencer, was the team’s defensive line coach. He was a rotational, run defending tackle his first season with the Giants. Same as he had always been. In 2021, he had a larger role and the most playing time of his career as former Giant Dalvin Tomlinson signed in free agency with the Vikings. Johnson played almost 300 more defensive snaps in 2021 than in any of his five previous seasons.
Did he improve? Or, did he just play more? Maybe the answer is somewhere in-between.
3.) Do you believe Johnson will be a good fit in Brandon Staley’s 3-4 front?
If the Chargers are going to ask him to play the nose or the shade, yes. He can do that. He’s not really athletic enough to be a 3-4 DE.
4.) What are Johnson’s strengths? Weaknesses?
Johnson is a solid run defender. He is a pretty high motor guy. He’s nose to the grindstone pro who will give you what he has, and what he has isn’t bad. It’s just not top shelf. He’s athletic enough to earn some “clean up” sacks and push the pocket a little, but he’s not going to be a dynamic interior pass rusher.
3 more things to know about Austin Johnson
1.) Johnson was a second-round pick of the Titans in 2016. He played collegiately at Penn State.
2.) Johnson initially planned to play basketball in college until he was persuaded by the head football coach to try out for the team. He ended up being recruited to Penn State by Larry Johnson.
3.) Johnson’s six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2021 would have ranked fourth in both stats on the Chargers a season ago.