Denver Broncos: 3 moves Vic Fangio made in win that worked
2. Swapping out Corey Nelson for AJ Johnson at linebacker
The Broncos signed Johnson last year later in training camp and ended up sort of stashing him on the active roster and then bouncing him around between the 53-man roster and practice squad.
He ultimately landed on the active roster and earned a roster spot again this offseason with a new coaching staff, and got his chance to shine against the Chargers in his first career NFL start.
As Ty Walden already wrote, he was stellar in his debut.
When you watched some of Johnson’s games while he was in college at Tennessee, it was apparent that no one was going to out-effort him on the football field. That high intensity and effort was clearly on display against the Chargers in this game.
Although Fangio has stated that Johnson wasn’t perfect, he admitted he made a lot of flash plays and has earned reps going forward.
Johnson finished second behind Kareem Jackson with nine tackles in this game, and was an instant upgrade for the Broncos against the run with his physicality inside, but perhaps most surprisingly, he was awesome in coverage and playing sideline-to-sideline.
Johnson made one of the biggest plays of the game, stopping a swing pass to Austin Ekeler at the one-yard line in a chase to the pylon. The following play was the forced fumble by Jackson.
Later in the game, Joe Flacco threw an interception with the Broncos deep in their own territory. The Chargers had their easiest, shortest field of the day, and look what Johnson came up with…
Johnson almost had another interception on great coverage later in the game, this time down the deep middle of the field.
He ended up dropping the ball, but he was in great position and read the play beautifully.
If Fangio’s right and Johnson can be better than he was in this game, that’s great news for the Broncos.