The Jacksonville Jaguars failed to meet expectations in 2023. While that seems like a harsh assessment of how last season for the Jags, it's a fair one. After all, they were favored to win the division and make the playoffs. Heck, they even had a 99 percent chance of accomplishing both goals after their win over the Houston Texans in Week 12. However, they ultimately came up short and achieved neither.
Having said that, there were several bright spots in what was a disappointing year for Jacksonville. For one, tight end Evan Engram had yet another career season while outside linebacker Josh Allen solidified his spot as one of the top edge rushers in the league. Even Trevor Lawrence, who struggled at times, routinely made plays other quarterbacks wish they could make in their dreams.
There were also a handful of Jaguars players who either lived up to expectations or outright exceeded them last year. These three in particular stood out.
3. Antonio Johnson, defensive back
Generally, clubs don't expect much from a late-round selection. They'll consider the pick a success if he either manages to become a backup or turns into a contributor on special teams. Then again, defensive back Antonio Johnson was no ordinary Day 2 pick.
Johnson was projected to go in the first or second round last year but he somehow fell to the fifth. Back at Texas A&M, he was a playmaker who gave coaches the flexibility to deploy him at safety or the slot. It didn't take long for the Jaguars' coaching staff to notice that versatility.
Although general manager Trent Baalke told the local media that Johnson would play safety in Jacksonville, he began to get reps at nickel early in training camp. A hamstring injury would put off his NFL debut but once he was given a chance, the East St. Louis native didn't look back, registering two interceptions, one forced fumble, 17 total tackles, one sack and three passes defenses.
Those are pretty good numbers from a fifth-round pick. Expect Antonio Johnson to keep getting better and get a bigger role either as a safety or in the slot in 2024. He's earned it.