Sure, he likes to snare catches like anyone else and he’s proven to be a capable receiver in the NFL. But the 6-2, 260-pounder considers himself a throwback tight end whose primary responsibility is to block the man in front of him. He takes pride in mauling anyone in his vicinity, and plans to bring that physical nature to San Diego.
Whether it’s blocking along the offensive line, out wide from the slot or even in the backfield as a fullback, Johnson embraces each opportunity he gets to wipe out the opponent.
“I like doing the grunt work that most people might not notice,” he said. “I love to iso-block and do all that stuff that looks like it hurts. That’s just part of it. That’s the reason why I’m here so hopefully I can keep doing that. I’ve always lined up multiple spots. Wherever they put me, even if it’s in the slot or in the backfield at fullback, I’ll do it all. I’ve always been that hybrid guy. I’m prepared to do whatever coach asks me to do.”
Most receivers say it is imperative to form chemistry with the quarterback. Similarly, Johnson said he’s working on building chemistry with the offensive line in order to maximize blocking efficiency.
“It’s very important because it’s very hard to stop when everyone is working in sync,” he explained. “When everyone knows what everybody’s going to do, and you get your communication down to work together, it’s very hard to stop. We have an offensive line that communicates well with the tight ends, and when that happens you can be very dominant.”
Prior to joining the Bolts, Johnson spent his first five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers after they selected him in the seventh-round. He appeared in 52 games with 26 starts, totaling 22 catches for 216 yards and one touchdown. Johnson played in 47 of 48 games his first three seasons with the Steelers, including starts in all 16 contests in 2011 when he set career highs with 12 catches, 91 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he was hit hard by injuries in the two years prior to signing with San Diego. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2012 preseason that cost him the entire season. Johnson returned to action in 2013, appearing in five games with two starts. He was off to a strong start with four catches for 70 yards, averaging 17.5 yards per catch before suffering a left wrist injury that once again ended his season.
Healthy again, he cherishes the chance to be back practicing with his new team.
“I had a lot of fun out there,” he said. “It just feels good to be back on the field. I’m excited to be here and be out there with the guys. We’ve got a great group of guys and I’m here to enjoy it and help this team win games. They all know the things I can do and the ways I can help this team. Anything the coaches want me to do, I’ll do it and give it all I got. The Chargers made me feel very wanted as a free agent, and I feel at home here.”