'Getting Dirty': Lonnie Has New Position


HOUSTON - The Houston Texans have to prepare for their next challenge as they welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to town in NFL Week 7. As the Texans defense works to bounce back, one player is working at his new position. 

Lonnie Johnson Jr. plays safety now. 

Drafted by the team in 2019 as a cornerback, Johnson has played safety at for the Texans more than at his previous assignment as a cornerback. The switch is something interim head coach (and former Texans defensive coordinator) Romeo Crennel thinks suits Johnson. 

"We kind of felt like that with his body type he might fit better at safety and might help us more there, and so we decided to move him to safety,'' Crennel said.

Johnson is listed at 6-2, 213 pounds. Draft experts touted his notable physical makeup, from his length to his speed, as a reason to get excited about his future. 

It's flashed, for sure. Johnson's speed is evident. You can see how physically he could use his gifts. 

"Lonnie has made good progress at safety and I think he enjoys the position and learning the position," said Crennel. 

The Texans have tried to ease Johnson in, it seems, finding the right spots to deploy a player learning a new position. He played less than 30 snaps on defense to start the season, but then played of 50 percent of the snaps against the Steelers. His snaps dropped in week four barely seeing the field before a season-high 83 percent of the snaps against the Jaguars. 

Last week, with close to half the work on defense, Johnson posted five tackles and a quarterback hit as he continues to settle into the position. 

It hasn't been easy. There have been some growing pains. Some penalties. It is a new position with the least offseason work ever. 

Nothing that will stop Johnson from growing into the position according to those around him. 

Rischad Whitfield is known in NFL workout circles as the Footwork King. Johnson was sent to him by former teammate Johnathan Joseph. He boasts Richard Sherman and DeAndre Hopkins among his ever-growing roster of professionals who seek him out. 

He's thrilled for Johnson to be playing safety.

"Him moving to safety is great," Whitfield told TexansDaily.com. "He's a hitter and plus he covers a lot of ground. Being 6-2 and long legs, he's got very fluid hips. Great speed. So he covers a lot of ground."

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With the new role, Whitfield told Johnson they want to maximize his aggressiveness and use it as a positive. He mentioned Johnson had to learn patience and discipline with his form and technique and diagnose and analyze what is happening. Whitfield believes the move to safety will give Johnson the moments to needed to recognize and attack. 

"Another thing with Lonnie, his run-support (ability) is awesome," Whitfield exclaimed. "He gets dirty with those guys. He will bring the competition in the run game and he will take on blockers with a vengeance."

Whitfield explained Johnson's cornerback ability would come in handy as a versatile safety that can end up covering inside, outside, and tight ends as well. Whitfield also praised Johnson's anticipation and route combination recognization. 

Crennel expects the trend to keep going up with his young defensive back. 

"But I think he’s enjoying it,'' the coach said, "and he’s making progress at it. I think he’ll get better as we go along."

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