New York Giants 2024 Training Camp Preview: CB Alex Johnson

Will Johnson show enough during training camp to be a developmental player for the Giants?
Nov 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive back Alex Johnson (36) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the third quarter against the USC Trojans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Nov 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive back Alex Johnson (36) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the third quarter against the USC Trojans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. / Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Giants have invested a lot of draft capital at the cornerback position. This year, they took Dru Phillips in the third round. 

The 2023 draft welcomed first round selection Deonte Banks and sixth round pick Tre Hawkins III. Cor’Dale Flott was the third round pick in 2022, and Aaron Robinson was selected in the same round a year earlier. And Darnay Holmes was a fourth round pick in 2020. 

That is quite a few names and more before you get to undrafted free agent Alex Johnson. When you add those names with free agents who have been acquired, it makes Johnson’s mission of making this roster even more daunting. 

Johnson does seem to fit the mold of defensive backs the coaches like for this team. He is taller and he is athletic. He has a good radius that allows him to get his hands on a lot of passes. 

He showed in his only season as a starter that he knows how to come up with an interception when given the opportunity to make a play. 

He also seems to play with a level of intelligence that would allow him to fit into a scheme that will be more zone heavy than any of the incumbent defensive backs on the roster are used to playing. 

Johnson is in another position like he apparently was in college. Lots of talent in front of him but clearly he has enough talent to keep investing in. He needs to pick up this system quickly that will allow him to play fast at the onset of training camp. 

When he gets his opportunity on special teams or defense he needs to be seen. Most defensive backs play passive in zone coverage but if you truly understand it you can be very aggressive in it.

It would be in his best interest to play fast and aggressively because that is what will catch the eye of the defensive and special teams coaching staff. 

He should be working to earn his way onto the practice squad so he can keep learning and let attrition take its toll.


ALEX JOHNSON, CB

Height: 6-0
Weight: 185 lbs.
Exp: R
School: UCLA
How Acquired: UDFA-24


2023 in Review

After spending his first five seasons as nothing more than a special teamer and eventually as a spot starter, in 2023 he finally earned the opportunity to start full time in his sixth season. 

He certainly did not waste his opportunity to start. He recorded a season high six tackles against Arizona State. He picked off two passes against San Diego State. He had a fumble recovery, a couple of quarterback hits, a tackle for loss and he even blocked a kick. 

He finished the season with 29 tackles but he jumped on the NFL’s radar with his play in coverage. He had three pass breakups and finished the year with five interceptions. He finished with the sixth most interceptions in the FBS. 

During the postseason he was named an All-Pac 12 honorable mention defensive back. He also made an interception and helped the Bruins to a 35-22 victory over Boise State in the LA Bowl. 

He was also named a mid-season PFF All American. At the UCLA pro day, he proved that he also has elite athleticism to go with that length. 

He ran a 4.48 forty-yard dash time and a seven-second three-cone drill. His 37-inch vertical and 10’7” broad jump were considered elite marks compared to the other elite prospects invited to the NFL combine. That eventually led him to New York.

Contract/Cap Info

Johnson signed a three-year, $2.845 million contract that includes a $15,000 signing bonus, $115,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $948,333. In 2024, Johnson will carry a cap hit of $800,000. He would have a dead cap value of $115,000.

2024 Preview

The depth chart is going to be difficult for Johnson to navigate through. With so many young defensive backs on the roster, they will all need reps. Compounding the issue is that they need to learn a new defense. 

That means the first string will eat up more reps than they would if this were the same defense as they have been in for the past couple seasons. So times where Johnson would normally get a couple reps, he may only get one. 

He has to make those practice reps count. In the preseason he must look to make plays in the second half but even then it will not matter. This room is just too deep and it is unlikely that any undrafted free agent is going to make the squad. 

The best case scenario for Johnson is that he makes the practice squad. The fact that the team gave him a signing bonus and a little guaranteed money means that they think he could be in the mix long term. He has to price them right and play the long game.



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Gene Clemons

GENE CLEMONS

Gene "Coach" Clemons has been involved with the game of football for 30 years as a player, coach, evaluator, and journalist.  Clemons has spent time writing for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Bridgton News, Urbana Daily Citizen, Macon Telegraph and footballgameplan.com.  He has a YouTube channel called "Coach Gene Clemons" where you can find his popular "X&O The Joes" series as well as other football related content.