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Raymond Johnson III: The Good, the Great and the Ugly

Undrafted rookie free agent Raymond Johnson III became the first undrafted rookie free agent to make the Giants roster in two seasons. Nick Falato takes a look at his film and what Johnson can bring to the table.

The Giants poured offseason assets into their EDGE position after a year plagued by injuries at the position. The Giants signed Ryan Anderson, Ifeadi Odenigbo and drafted Azeez Ojulari out of Georgia and Elerson Smith out of Northern Iowa. They also expressed serious interest in Leonard Floyd, but the Los Angeles Rams retained the skilled pass rusher.

One of the lesser discussed additions during the offseason was UDFA out of Georgia Southern Raymond Johnson III. His unique build of 6'3", 270 pounds resembles a bit more of a tweener's build than a pure EDGE, so the Giants aligned him as such in the preseason; he had 114 snaps spanning across six different positions from REO/LEO to nose tackle. This versatility is important for a Patrick Graham-coached defense.

At Georgia Southern, he was predominantly a right end in a four-down front - he was a beast for the Eagles. Pro Football Focus had him at seven sacks and 49 pressures in his senior season. He had 18 sacks, 147 pressures, 107 hurries, and 22 hits on the quarterback in college. He was also effective against the run, earning 128 STOPS (a play that constitutes a failed offensive rep).

In his senior season at the EDGE position, Raymond Johnson III ranked third in Pro Football Focus defense grade. He ranked 13th as a pass rusher, 4th as a run defender, and 3rd out of all EDGE players in STOPS. That's out of the entire FBS and FCS. His production and ability caught more than just Pro Football Focus' eyes, as the Giants were able to slip him onto the roster after the 2021 draft.

At the smaller level of competition (FCS), it was clear that Johnson was a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Many doubted his ability to earn a roster spot at a deep position group on the Giants. He proved the doubters wrong by showing development and flash plays throughout the preseason.

His growth allowed the Giants to feel comfortable enough to trade B.J. Hill to upgrade the offensive line. I'm not entirely sure if Johnson earns snaps on this defense unless injuries smack the Giants, but his presence on this tight roster speaks volumes on how the coaching staff views his potential. Let's get into some plays that stood out in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.

Raymond Johnson III is No. 91.

The Good: Ability on Stunts

Johnson is the 4i-technique towards the top of the screen. The guard kicks off his inside foot to cut the angle of Johnson off from attacking outside and attempting to shoot the B-Gap, but Johnson was setting up a rush for the stunt. David Moa (96) does a great job penetrating the A-Gap; he takes the center with him and cuts the angle of Johnson's guard off, resulting in an easy path to the pocket.

It requires good timing on Johnson's part to allow Moa to clear before he goes back inside as the looper. Johnson isn't known for his athletic ability, but he dips the outside shoulder and beats these backups to gain a chance at the sack. However, he has to finish and be better as a tackler in this situation. Here's Johnson's Mockdraftable.com chart, displaying his athletic testing from the Spring.

It appears he put on some more weight since the Spring, but one can see that he's not winning any athletic competitions. However, he can still use timing and enough lateral explosiveness to find ways of success when stunting as a looper from multiple positions.

Johnson is the 5-technique in a four-down front above. He does a good job getting the guard to slightly open his hips outside as the Giants bring a five-man pressure package to get the tackle kicking out. Johnson's original path upfield gave Moa the time to eliminate the center, which opens the alley for the loop into a vacated A-Gap.

His active hands help shed the out-of-position guard, and Johnson crashes into the pocket to force an overthrow. His timing in these situations is better than expected, and it seems like Moa and Johnson worked well together through the preseason.

There's a lot of depth on Johnson's rush in this clip; he gets upfield to open the tackle up and allows Moa to penetrate before coming underneath Moa's path to avoid the center looking for work and get his hands into the air. The ball was completed, but still good pressure and sack opportunity from Johnson on the loop.

Here is another play that #63 read well, but we can see how Moa picks the path of the original blocker to allow Johnson to separate. We can also see how the two offensive linemen both take Johnson, who beat them earlier, and leave Moa almost unblocked, which nearly results in a sack. Johnson brings good power to these situations, especially when he has steam going forward.

The Great: Creates Pressure from a Variety of Ways

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He runs through this guard while aligned as a 3-technique where he's able to pin his ears back in the third and long situation. He sinks his body upon contact, explodes low to high, gets his hands into the guard's chest, and just powers through the offensive lineman like he isn't there. These are backups, and that has to be factored in, but Johnson is a rookie UDFA beasting and flexing on other backups, which is something to note.

The following week against the Browns, he's able to create more interior pressure. Another 3rd-and-long situation at 3-technique, but Johnson doesn't use brute strength or power; instead, he uses a swipe/rip combination to press through the guard's outside shoulder and collapses the pocket. He reduces the surface area of the chest, gets low enough to employ the rip, and then uses good burst to almost get the sack but force the incompletion.

This is another display of interior pressure from the 3-technique position, but both Johnson and Moa rush their paths towards the center, forcing a one-on-one situation with one of the rushers and a guard. This creates a slight miscommunication, and Johnson can win his head-to-head matchup with great hand usage to keep himself clean and a relentless attitude and determination.

I'm impressed with Johnson's ability to employ his hands and get to the half-man relationship against some of these guards. He's the 3-technique again, and he quickly uses an outside arm chop to stunt the extension of the guard's outer arm while subsequently bringing his inside arm for the rip through of the guard's outside shoulder. 

While performing this task, he shows bend in his lower half to turn and get his hips oriented into the pocket--he's just a step late from possibly forcing a fumble.

The Ugly: Taking on Double Teams

I don't want to chastise Johnson for his lack of anchor against double teams, but it's a fact. Since he's considered a defensive lineman on the Giants depth chart, it should be mentioned.

The Giants ran tite fronts early and often last season. In these fronts, defensive linemen are tasked to eat blocks and allow their linebackers cleaner looks from the second level. I question Johnson's ability to perform this task without getting pushed back a bit.

This makes sense, though - he's only 270 pounds, whereas players like Hill were 305; that's a significant difference. I expect Graham to employ him differently than this if he finds the field, which, in turn, limits his opportunity to see the field.

At 3-technique, the guard and tackle initially engage Johnson and just drive him backward. The guard slips off the block, and the tackle gains Johnson's back and continues to push him vertically off the line of scrimmage. 

He may not have anticipated the tackle's block from the tackle's advantageous angle, but being driven back six yards off the line of scrimmage is never a great sight.

Instead of a DEUCE block, this is an ACE combination block with the guard and center. Johnson gets turned outside and driven back only a yard or two, but he allows the guard to shed and locate Devante Downs in the hole, which didn't help with the touchdown defense. The push up front was a significant cause of the touchdown as it went through the A-Gap off the inside shoulder of Johnson.

He's at the top of the screen 3-technique on this play. He gets bullied back off the line of scrimmage and past the linebackers on this 1st-and-10 run late in the third quarter.

Final Thoughts

Johnson has displayed the ability to create pressure in a variety of different ways. We've seen power bull-rushes, and we've seen hand usage to get hip to hip while bending through some contact. He's an exciting player that isn't very athletic or bursty but carries pop in his hands and knows how/when to use his hands effectively.

He has upside, and he's a solid overall run defender, but not one that should be trusted to eat double team blocks; he's a bit undersized for that. There's certainly a place for him in the NFL. We will see if he can find the field in a deep defensive line rotation. He could see the field at times as an EDGE, but his lack of coverage upside may hinder his chances in that area. 


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