A day-by-day Broncos player breakdown is something we've been doing since our days at BroncoTalk nearly a decade ago. This year the tradition continues as we look at the Denver Broncos roster heading into the 2015 season in our 90-in-90 series.
Name: Steven Johnson
Position: Inside Linebacker
Height: 6-1 Weight: 237
Age: 27 Experience: 4th Season
College: Kansas Jayhawks
Steven Johnson has always been known as a special teams ace and run stopping thumper, but if last year proved anything to us, the Broncos, and Steven Johnson himself, it's that he needs to get better defending the pass.
Coming off a one-year extension, Steven Johnson aims to make an impact, not only on special teams, but on the revamped and upgraded 3-4 defense that Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips is installing. To say that Johnson wants to be a three down linebacker is an understatement. He's been working tirelessly with Chris Harris Jr., aka the baddest cornerback on the planet, to hone and perfect his coverage skills. When asked about this, he said that Chris is helping him cover like a cornerback and that when practicing against other wide receivers, he's demanding to be treated as a cornerback so that he is forced to improve his cover skills. Bravo Steven, bravo!
We all know that Steven Johnson is a beast on special teams. I have gone on the record as saying "every time Steven Johnson steps on the field, good things happen." Whether those good things are interceptions, blocked punts, or returning fumbles for touchdowns, every time he stepped on the field, good thing seemed to happen.
The good: Johnson has played in a 3-4 defense his entire life. Whether it's high school or college, he made his mark as a 3-4 linebacker. Not only that, but he led his conference in tackles playing as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 during his senior season at Kansas. Johnson also helped the Broncos to become one of the elite rushing defenses in the NFL. He is a ferocious thumper and special teams ace. Anyone who finds themselves in his line of sight better buckle up, because they are going for a ride. Add to this his determination to improve his coverage skills, and we have the makings of a lethal inside linebacker. Added to all of this is the fact that he has shed some excess weight so that he can be quicker and more agile, but not enough to take the fear out of people's eyes when they see #53 waiting for them to be crazy enough to enter his territory.
The bad: We all remember last year's Bengals game, don't we? Well, that was Steven Johnsons' worst performance of his career. He was abused in the middle of the field while trying to cover Jermaine Gresham. None of us can forget the 22 yard touchdown he gave up over the middle. Well, neither can he as is evident by him saying,
"To tell you the truth, going against Cincinnati last year... I learned a lot. I got beat one on one... I was just like, 'You know, this is a time where certain people can hold their head and really go into the gutter or they can bounce back and become better individuals.' and for me, I believe I've done that."
So look for Steven Johnson to be playing with not only the Undrafted chip on his shoulder, but also the 'you can't cover anyone' chip as well.
Quotable: "I played 3-4 in college, 3-4 in high school and now, playing it again in the leauge, I'm like 'Oh, shoot, I feel like I'm in high school again." And later on, "In the past, I've been a really good special teams player, but I'm trying to make that leap and become a starter and a true leader on this team."
Status: Fighting for a starting role as an inside linebacker. If he has improved as much as it appears, and if Chris Harris Jr. is as good of a teacher to Johnson as Champ Bailey was for Harris, then I like his (Johnson's) chances of being a true three down linebacker.