WR Juwan Johnson follows brother's footsteps, joins Saints

Bob Rose

The New Orleans Saints did not select a wide receiver out of what most considered being a deep draft class at the position. New Orleans offense added the big-play ability of veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders in free agency to compliment the record-breaking feats of All-Pro WR Michael Thomas.  Given the little production that the Saints received from their wideouts other than Thomas the last two years, it still surprised some when the team did not add another through the draft. Deonte Harris, an undrafted rookie a year ago that would have an All-Pro year as a kick returner, may be used more at receiver this season.

The Saints brought in two undrafted receivers, WR Juwan Johnson and WR Marquez Callaway, to compete with the returning veterans for a roster spot at the position. Today’s rookie profile looks at WR Juwan Johnson who could muscle his way onto the depth chart.  Juwan’s older brother George Johnson was an NFL defensive lineman for six seasons, including 5 games with the Saints in 2017.

Juwan Johnson, WR (Oregon),  6’4” & 230 Lbs.

New Orleans Saints WR Juwan Johnson at Penn State University
Oct 20, 2018; Bloomington, IN, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Juwan Johnson (84) attempts to outrun Indiana Hoosiers defensive back A'Shon Riggins (28) with the ball during the second quarter of the game at Memorial Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson attended Penn State out of Glassboro (NJ) High School. He would redshirt his first year and saw action on special teams his second before working his way into the offense in 2017. That season he earned honorable mention All-Big 10 recognition by catching 54 passes for 701 yards and a touchdown. Nagging injuries slowed Johnson in 2018 and he saw a limited role in the Nittany Lions offense, catching 25 balls for 352 yards and a score. Johnson transferred to Oregon after the year where he would join this year’s sixth overall draft pick, quarterback Justin Herbert. Injuries again limited him, playing in just eight games, but had 30 receptions for 467 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2019 for the Ducks.  

NFL Scouting Combine Statistics

  • 40-Yd dash = 4.58
  • Vertical jump = 33”
  • Broad jump = 124”
  • 3-cone drill = 6.94 (2nd among wide receivers)
  • 20-Yd shuttle = 4.37
New Orleans Saints WR Juwan Johnson
Nov 16, 2019; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Juwan Johnson (6) catches a touchdown pass during the first half against the Arizona Wildcats at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson missed eleven games with injuries over the last two seasons, leading some to even question his willingness to play with pain. He’s struggled with drops throughout his career and must show better reliability for his quarterback. Johnson needs to develop a quicker release off the line of scrimmage to better combat press coverage. Though possessing good speed, Johnson must be quicker out of his breaks and sharpen his routes for better separation. He needs to use his body better to shield defenders near the goal line to make himself a better red zone threat.

Johnson has a long stride and good build-up speed to pull away from defenders in the open field. His strength and size allow him to dominate smaller defensive backs. Johnson is a terrific blocker, which could allow him to move to tight end with some added bulk. He gives his quarterbacks a big catch radius and snatches the ball out of the air without breaking stride. Johnson is a physical runner who weaves through traffic well after the catch and is rarely brought down by first contact.

Saints WR Juwan Johnson
January 1, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Juwan Johnson (6) runs the ball against Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Caesar Williams (21) during the second half at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Juwan Johnson has a combination of size, strength, and athletic ability that could make him a matchup nightmare for many defensive backs. He must show that he can be a reliable pass catcher, but Johnson will have the opportunity to carve out a spot on a New Orleans receiver unit thin behind Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Comments (2)
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Bob, who is a better bet to make the team Johnson or Callaway?