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With Oregon's Defense Getting Healthier, DJ Johnson's Role Could be Shifting

After helping Oregon on both sides of the ball, Johnson could be featured more on offense moving forward.

Through Oregon’s seven games, DJ Johnson has continued to be a dependable player for both the Ducks’ offense as well as the defense. While it seems that he has started to move to a more permanent job within the offense, his ability to cover both sides of the ball has been crucial to Oregon’s success.

After leaving Miami as a defensive player, he was converted to a tight end for Oregon, where he spent a majority of the 2020 season. In the shortened season he had ten catches for 113 yards and three touchdowns.

Throughout the first couple games this season, injuries started to pile up for the Ducks. After the Ducks lost Kayvon Thibodeaux to injury, the Ducks needed players to embody the ‘next man up’ mentality.

As a result, Johnson saw an increased amount of time on defense. In the absence of Thibodeaux, he helped by playing snaps as a defensive end. Even after spending most of last year on defense, Johnson has made big plays for Oregon on defense this year, coming away with the game-winning sack against Ohio State in week 2.

Now that Oregon defenders are returning from injury, it seems Johnson will see more reps on offense and less on defense.

“That guy has really been unselfish in trying to help us out,” Mario Cristobal said this week. “We want to do what’s right for the team and what’s right for him, so we have limited some of the defensive stuff with him, but we’re also increasing and putting him back on track to the offensive stuff that he has been doing for the past couple of years.”

Cristobal also talked about Johnson’s ability to learn the field, boundaries, first and second down calls against multiple formations, and third down calls.

“That’s a lot,” he said. “And he did a really good job doing all of that.”

Johnson was utilized on the offensive side of the ball against UCLA, and made a couple huge blocks to help earn a crucial victory. In the most important offensive drive of the game for Oregon, it was Johnson who was the lead blocker that allowed Anthony Brown to score a touchdown without being touched by the Bruins defense.

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While the junior only has one reception this season, his return to the offensive side of the ball can be utilized especially in goal line formations which was where Oregon used him in 2020.

The Ducks will return to Eugene against Colorado where Johnson hopes to continue his offensive production in the blocking game while also adding some more catches.

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