Jaguars RB D'Ernest Johnson makes surprise appearance on prestigious list
The Jacksonville Jaguars made a couple of key additions to their running back room in the offseason. First, they signed D'Ernest Johnson in free agency and later picked Tank Bigsby in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft. Bigbsy will be given a chance to compete for the No. 2 spot behind Travis Etienne, but fending off Johnson won't be a walk in the park. In fact, Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report thinks Johnson is the best-kept secret on the Jags' roster right now.
Ballentine chose the best-kept secret for each NFL team and believes Johnson has a realistic chance to make a big impact in the backfield this year, noting that he delivered for the Cleveland Browns when called upon.
"Johnson was mostly stuck behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in his time with the Browns. He only had four carries for 17 yards this season. But in the rare chance he had when either of them were out of the lineup, he shined.
He started two games in 2021. In those games, he rushed for 245 yards on 41 carries. ON the year, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and three touchdowns, giving the Browns year another explosive runner. "
Johnson tried out for the New Orleans Saints after going undrafted in 2018 but he wasn't signed. After a year away from football, he joined the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football in 2019 and was then signed by the Cleveland Browns, where he spent the last four seasons. The Immokalee, Florida native appeared in 64 games with two starts and racked up 738 yards with three touchdowns on 141 carries in that span. His most productive season came in 2021, when toted the rock 100 times for 534 yards.
The Jags had signed JaMycal Hasty to a two-year extension earlier. But they wanted to add another running back to their rotation, one who could play special teams, and having ample experience in that department, Johnson landed in Jacksonville.
Jaguars RB D'Ernest Johnson will have a chance to shine in training camp
Drafting Tank Bigsby might have seemed surprising at first but it shouldn't have when you take into account that the Jags are committed to improving every position group ahead of the regular season.
Having said that, the arrival of Bigsby puts additional pressure on the rest of the Jaguars' non-Travis Etienne running backs to make an impression in training camp. Hasty's deal only has $300,000 in guaranteed money. Similarly, Johnson only got a $50,000 guarantee when he signed with Jacksonville. This doesn't mean they're on their way out. Simply, the Jags can easily move on from either one. The same is true for sophomore Snoop Connor, who might be on the roster bubble ahead of the regular season.
Bigsby will be given a chance to earn the backup job behind Etienne, so Hasty, Johnson, and Conner could find themselves in a three-way battle for a roster spot if the Jags plan to carry rookie fullback Derek Parish into the regular season.
Make no mistake though. Johnson can be a pretty good No. 2 running back for the Jags and his ability to play special teams will most likely help him earn a roster spot. While he will face lots of competition from Hasty and Bigsby, he has a legitimate opportunity to make an impact for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2023.