Over the last two season, Isaiah Johnson has been one of the most intriguing players on the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s tall and athletic but an injury kept him out for most of his rookie year. Heading into this season, he’s had to play catchup and hasn’t found much of a role on the defense.
That changed in Week 9 against the Los Angeles Chargers as Johnson played hero at the end of the game. The Chargers clearly wanted to target him for a potential game-winning touchdown pass but he broke up two straight passes to lock up the Raiders’ fifth win of the season. After the game, Johnson revealed that he was dealing with some heartbreaking news during the week.
“I found out that one of my close, close teammates [Ka’Darian Smith] that was like a little brother to me had passed away in Houston,” Johnson told reporters. “I played cornerback with him at U of H. He had lost his life in Houston this past Wednesday and I didn’t tell a whole bunch of people about it because I knew we still had to prepare and win the game, and I didn’t want to be a distraction.”
It was Johnson’s best game as a pro so he was certainly able to honor his friend. His performance at the end of the game is something that should force the Raiders to start giving him more playing time.
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‘Thank Goodness for Isaiah Johnson’
Last offseason, head coach Jon Gruden called Johnson “the steal of the draft.” He only played in five games during the 2019 season and it wasn’t even clear if he’d make the roster this year. Well, the Raiders now know that they have a guy who has serious potential. There’s still work to be done but you can’t teach clutch and Johnson proved that he’s got ice water in his veins.
“He got baptized today in the NFL,” Gruden said. “Mullen comes out of the game and Arnette’s on the sideline and we needed somebody to step up. Keisean Nixon hurt his groin. Thank goodness for Isaiah Johnson and his length. You gotta give him credit.”
The Raiders have been banged up in the secondary and Johnson stepped up when they needed him to. The team should really expand his role as he’s got the athletic traits of an elite cornerback.
Derek Carr Praises Johnson
The Chargers clearly thought they could take advantage of Johnson towards the end of the game due to his inexperience but he made them pay. Quarterback Derek Carr knew that Johnson could play and praised him after the game.
“He’s a guy that gives us the best looks on scout team all the time and his number was called today, and he needed to step up,” Carr said. “Not only did he have to give us good looks all week, but he had to go in and execute our scheme.”
With Damon Arnette getting healthy and Johnson coming into his own, the Raiders’ secondary is starting to look a lot better. There will be more growing pains along the way but the future could be very bright for the Las Vegas cornerbacks.