4 Jacksonville Jaguars players who will benefit the most from the Ryan Nielsen hire

• The Jaguars have a new DC in Ryan Nielsen. His arrival should benefit these 4 players in 2024

Jun 14, 2023; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen answers
Jun 14, 2023; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen answers / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Antonio Johnson, defensive back

One of the most pleasant surprises to come out of the draft was fifth-round pick Antonio Johnson. Projected to go in the first or second round, he had to wait until Day 3 to hear his name called. Either way, he proved in his rookie season that he shouldn't have slid. Back at Texas A&M, he lined up at defensive back and safety and he put on display his versatility right out of the gate.

Although the team's original plan was to have Johnson line up at safety, as he was listed in college, he quickly got snaps at nickel in training camp. Unfortunately, the East St. Louis native suffered a hamstring injury before the start of the season and had to wait until Week 5 to make his NFL debut. Even then, he didn't get playing time on defense until Week 8, when he showcased his playmaking skills by registering an interception.

Johnson earned more playing time down the stretch and he rewarded the Jaguars by tallying another interception, a forced fumble, three passes defensed, and one sack. While he could have most definitely benefited from having Caldwell around for another season, he's talented enough that Ryan Nielsen will find how to best deploy him.

Last year, Johnson mostly got playing time at nickel. With incumbent Tre Herndon set to hit the open market, maybe the Jaguars will leave him in the slot but it wouldn't be shocking if they move him to safety full-time. Either way, he should be able to put it all together under Nielsen.