When former Clinton High School football coach Lee Camp brought Johnson up to the varsity as a sophomore, Camp started using Johnson as a dual-threat running back/wide receiver — basically the same role Johnson has with the Cardinals. Camp would swing Johnson out of the backfield, use him on sweeps or line him up as a receiver. It also saved Johnson from wearing down from the punishment of running between the tackles.
Camp saw Johnson’s instincts. He had a knack for anticipating when he’d be open out of the backfield and the vision to read defensive backs and find an open hole. More often than not, Camp said, Johnson had to readjust his route because his quarterback didn’t put the pass where it should’ve been.
Johnson became Clinton’s primary running back as a junior and senior, adding weight and bulk to play at 180 pounds — a far cry from the 224 he’s listed at this season. The foundation was being set for Johnson to become the player who coaches wanted — check that: needed — to have the ball in his hands as often as possible. Even though Johnson emerged into one of the state’s best running backs as a senior, his receiving skills punched his college scholarship ticket.
We’ve dealt with this in recent weeks with the Oakland Raiders and came to the conclusion that Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are each really, really valuable, but Cooper, with his occasional Julio Jones-type outings, is the top choice.
And New Orleans Saints rookie Michael Thomas made a strong case with Sunday’s performance that he deserves considerably more attention in general — and perhaps more than more heralded teammate Brandin Cooks.
The Ravens are better than most at getting Roethlisberger on the ground, especially here in Baltimore, where Big Ben has often been cut down to size (the Ravens sacked him nine times and intercepted him twice in a 27-0 victory in 2006). “We try to coach a way of tackling the guy,” Harbaugh said as he stood outside the winners’ locker room. “Basically what we coach is, tackle him. Tackle him like he’s a tight end. Just tackle him. You don’t knock him off his feet. He’s not going to go down. You have to run up to him and wrap him up because he’ll move just a little bit and you’ll go flying past him.”