Maybe I just made this prediction in my head, because I have searched reams of sportsthink archives, and have found just shy of nothing concerning Jarret Johnson’s impact on the Chargers. But I liked what he brought to this defense from the start. So much so that I am doubting some of the praise I have sent John Pagano’s way — it may be Johnson instead.
There’s no doubt that the 2012 Chargers defense improved over last year. They allow the 7th fewest rushing yards in the league. They tackle more soundly, they fly to the football with more energy, and they seemed out of position far less often. I grant you, mental mistakes and an underwhelming collection of talent at cornerback, plus a lackluster pass rush, has undoubtedly hurt their pass defense. (The pass rush was predictable, however, as I noted here.) But they have stepped up their game overall.
Jarret Johnson has played a huge role in this turnaround. The stat line is underwhelming: 34 tackles, just 2 tackles for a loss, and one turnover induced. But the impact is there. As the UT reports, has he injected an intensity and consistent expectations to practice and games. But his impact goes farther than conditioning drills. The defensive often calls for Johnson to contain run plays, turning them inside. Johnson attacks the assignment with passion, neither getting beat to the outside, nor getting pushed too far upfield. Chargers fans have seen a lot more tackles near the line of scrimmage as a result. The defensive line as a whole has played more disciplined, stout run defense this year, and some of that has to be attributed to Johnson’s influence as well.
Norv may be wrong about a number of things, but his praise for Johnson is right on the money.