It was a lost season for Raiders‘ first-year cornerback Isaiah Johnson. As a fourth-round pick, he didn’t have huge expectations, but he was at least expected to see the field. That was until he suffered a brutal facial injury early in the preseason that led to the team putting him on injured-reserved. Fortunately, he was able to get healthy halfway through the season and saw a little time on the field. However, he didn’t get any significant playing time.
Well, the plot has thickened slightly as Johnson revealed on Twitter that he had minor back surgery on Tuesday.
While it’s unconfirmed, a nagging back injury may be the reason why Johnson didn’t see the field much towards the end of 2019. Fortunately, he said it was a minor procedure, so there’s no reason to believe he’ll miss out on any of the offseason workout programs.
Raiders Like Johnson’s Upside
Johnson didn’t get a chance to flash much in during the season, but the Raiders are still excited about his potential. Defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil spoke with The Athletic’s Vic Tafur shortly after the season and he had some interesting things to say about the young defensive back.
“Isaiah was a guy we really liked at the Senior Bowl, and he has only played corner for a year and a half,” O’Neil said. “He was a heavily recruited wide receiver. We loved his length, size and how football smart he was. He had a great training camp and then he broke his face.
“When you miss eight weeks as a developmental player who hasn’t played the position a lot, it’s hard. When we played him, he was up and down. He had a couple of good plays and then a couple of not-so-good plays. We challenged him and he is showing development and growth. He just needs to keep going. We really like the upside.”
It’s true that Johnson missed out on a lot of important time. Sure, if he was a three-year starter at cornerback for a team like Alabama, he would’ve probably been ready to step in as soon as he got healthy. However, he wasn’t a defensive back. There was no way he was going to be ready to step in with how little experience he has.
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Johnson’s Got All the Tools
Luckily, Johnson still has plenty of time to prove his worth and they know he has all the athletic traits one could want in a cornerback.
“If you could create a player, a corner, you would create Isaiah Johnson, just because of his size and length, his speed, his ball skills, everything,” O’Neil said.
The Raiders have struggled to defend the pass for several years now. They’ve added promising players like Johnson, Trayvon Mullen and Keisean Nixon. If those young guys can be as good as the team thinks they can be, the Raiders’ defensive woes could be over. It’s going take a while to know for sure, but the secondary is the most promising its looked in years.