D'Ernest Johnson gives Jacksonville Jaguars RB room an immediate boost: 3 immediate takeaways
It took the Jacksonville Jaguars a bit of time to sign an unrestricted free agent from another team but they've been busy Wednesday. First, they signed defensive end Michael Dogbe. And not much later, they inked former Cleveland Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson, who can form a dynamic tandem alongside Travis Etienne. Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported the signing of Johnson.
Head coach Doug Pederson told the media at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine that he wanted to add another running back to the rotations even though JaMycal Hasty returned on a two-year deal. Despite the fact that Johnson is coming off a quiet year, he could push for the No. 2 job right off the bat.
An undrafted free agent in 2018, Johnson worked out for the New Orleans Saints but wasn't offered a deal. He signed with the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football in 2019 and went on to rack up 372 rushing yards and 220 receiving yards on 64 carries. That same year, the former South Florida Bull joined the Cleveland Browns. Although he appeared in all 16 games, he had a measly four carries for 21 yards.
Johnson got a bigger workload in 2020. He played all 16 games once again and finished the season with 33 carries for 166 yards. His best year came in 2021, when he had 100 carries for 534 yards with three rushing touchdowns. However, the Florida native would see a decrease in playing time last season, logging just four rushers for 17 yards.
Although the Browns were interested in potentially bringing Johnson back, they ended up moving on from him. Here are three takeaways from the Jaguars' decision to sign him.
3. D'Ernest Johnson can be the Jacksonville Jaguars No. 2 running back
Travis Etienne is firmly entrenched as the Jaguars' starting running back but the coaching staff needed to add someone that could allow him to catch his breath every now and then and stay fresh. Although the team's brass re-signed JaMycal Hasty, their running back room was still in need of an upgrade, which is why it's not shocking to see Jacksonville sign Johnson after the free agent market cooled down.
Johnson will most likely compete with Hasty for the No. 2 job behind Etienne in training camp. If he can play the way he did in 2021, when he was called upon, there's a strong chance he'll win the battle.
2. Snoop Conner might not make the Jacksonville Jaguars roster in 2023
Snoop Conner was a healthy scratch for most of the 2022 season and only got playing time after James Robinson was traded to the New York Jets. Had Robinson remained on the roster, Conner might not have gotten playing time at all. The former Ole Miss Rebel ended up suiting up for eight games and toting the rock 12 times for 42 carries with one touchdown.
The arrival of Johnson doesn't instill confidence in Connor's chances of getting significant playing time in 2023. In fact, he might need to make a positive impression on the coaching staff in the summer to make the Jaguars' 53-man roster.
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars might not draft a running back in 2023
Even though running back wasn't a pressing need for the Jags this offseason, it made sense to give the position a boost. If they hadn't signed Johnson, taking one in the middle rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft would have made sense. Now, not so much.
The Jaguars could still take a running back late in the draft. After all, they had nine picks but it looks less likely after the addition of Johnson.