It seems like at least once during every Jacksonville Jaguars camp thus far, rookie receiver Collin Johnson does something that causes a collective gasp and exclamation. The 6-foot-6 son of former NFL corner Johnnie Johnson has become prone to acrobatic catches and big bodied moves that dominate whichever poor defensive back assigned to him that rep.
So it was no surprise—least of all to Head Coach Doug Marrone—that at Saturday’s scrimmage, he did the same.
“Watching practice I don't think what happened today is anything where you would say ‘Oh my God, where did this guy come from,’” noted Marrone.
“I think he's been very consistent, he's done a very good job. And he's been consistent in making those catches so you know everything that you've seen out there is the same thing that we're seeing…the kid’s, you know he's really had a good camp and he's really worked hard.”
Marrone described the wide receiver unit has probably some of the most competition on the team. Between the draft and undrafted free agents, the unit added four rookies this offseason. All have had good days and strung together positive performances. Second rounder Laviska Shenault especially has been solid. But it’s Johnson who often finds a way to make “the play” of the day.
“I mean, I'm kind of like a 6-6 guy but like when I was a kid, I used to just always do flips and stuff,” describes Johnson, “so I think it kind of seeped over to wide receiver; like my body control and things like that but you know I'm trying to stay on my feet a little more but sometimes when you have to make a play—I’ll put my body on the line, anytime to make the play for my teammates.”
Johnson—who was the only Jaguars player to speak following Saturday’s scrimmage—is more than just acrobatic catches though. He’s soaking up lessons from position coach and former NFL receiver Keenan McCardell to become the all-around player that can make a niche on the 53-man roster.
“I'm all about getting better so I got to continue to get better listen to, you know, Coach McCardell, he played for 17 years, a great coach too. And I'm always learning from the older receivers in the room so it's all about learning process, for sure.
"That room’s ran by Keenan McCardell, like he's a legend, so I'm fortunate to be taught by him, each and every day, and I don't take that for granted because he you know he's played the game he's, he's played at the highest level and now he's a coach so when he talks I definitely listen.”
Johnson has been able to rotate through with each of the four quarterbacks. The former Texas Longhorn has found a connection with each at varying times, proving he can play with whoever is behind center.
“I've personally got plenty of reps with all the all the QB’s which has been nice because it's just good getting work with all the guys you know, so got a few passes from Gardner [Minshew], a few passes from [Josh] Dobbs, you know, Jake [Luton] all those guys, Mike [Glennon], so basically it's been good in reps with those guys but at the end of the day, I just try to control what I can control and being the best receiver I can be so when those guys throw me the ball, I can gain their trust and make a play so that's that's really what I'm focused on my main thing throughout camp and today.”
Johnson was vital for the Longhorns whenever he was on the field. But injuries kept him off the grass for several games his senior year. After falling to the 5th round, where the Jaguars scooped him up in this April’s 2020 NFL Draft, Johnson has used this training camp and scrimmage to prove he was worth the pick and so much more.
“The true character of a man comes out when times are hard, not when times are easy…once that phone rang and Coach Marrone called me and Mr. Caldwell called me and gave me an opportunity, that’s literally all I could ask for. And I was extremely thankful and each and every day, I go out there with a chip on my shoulder trying to prove myself right.”