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Johnson Wants to Become Defensive Leader in 2018

Free safety John Johnson III is undoubtedly one of the loudest players off the field and in the Rams locker room. But this season, the Boston College product is being asked to take on a more vocal role on the field — as one of the few defensive starters returning from last year.

In 2017, Johnson quickly established himself as one of the brightest young safeties in the league, earning the starting position by Week 5. From that point forward, he and safety Lamarcus Joyner have worked in tandem, patrolling the defensive backfield.

While both will be returning in 2018, Joyner is quieter by nature than the outspoken Johnson. For that reason, it’s the second-year safety who will be tasked with more of the verbal communication.

“The safeties, we gotta talk. Me and LJ, we’re on the same page,” Johnson said. “He talks to me and I talk to everybody else. So, I think it comes from the safety position, you have to be out there, be vocal, and be a leader.” 

Throughout Los Angeles’ OTAs, Johnson has made an effort to do just that — especially when it comes to communicating with new cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

The safety said all four starters in the secondary have focused in on these sessions as a method of building chemistry before the summer break.

“They’re huge. We don’t have pads on so we don’t have to worry about the physical part of it — it’s a lot mental,” Johnson said. “We’re in a great spot. We’re going to take advantage of them, head into vet minicamp ready to go [and] play a lot faster than we are now.”

It’s those mental reps that have also allowed the unit to show continuous improvement in every session. As the three-week period comes to a close, Johnson feels the secondary has taken a significant step forward in a short amount of time.

“We’re growing,” Johnson said. “Early on we were kind of just trying to get the scheme right and stuff, but now we’re actually making plays on the ball — interceptions, tipped balls everywhere. So, I think we’re getting comfortable with each other and with the scheme. It’s looking good.”

And as for his personal development? Johnson said coming in with a year of experience under his belt has been a huge confidence booster, allowing him to take on new roles within the same defense.

“They’re using me in different ways now, so, I’m taking it all in and just trying to get better every day,” he said.

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