Most Eagles fans probably don’t know much about Marcus Johnson.
Who can blame them? Johnson signed with Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent last year. He was nearly invisible in training camp due to an injury he suffered that kept him out for most of the summer. Johnson was eventually waived with an injury settlement and didn’t rejoin the team until he signed with the Eagles’ practice squad in December. After the season was over, Johnson signed a reserve/futures contract which is typically dedicated for camp bodies and bottom of the roster guys.
But Johnson might not just be filler at the wide receiver position. He might actually have a chance to make the team this year. One NFL insider noted the Eagles are “really high on Johnson” and they think he’s had a “very strong offseason.”
Indeed, Johnson looked good in spring practices. He even received some first team reps during minicamp. No, he’s probably not the next NFL star in the making. But it’s possible Johnson could beat out fifth-round pick Shelton Gibson when it comes to making the final cut. That’s not insignificant.
For those unfamiliar with Johnson’s game, the Eagles wide receiver explained what he’s all about in an exclusive interview with BGN Radio on SportsRadio 94WIP.
To be honest, going into the second year with the Eagles and with the organization, just another year in the playbook, opportunity to get familiar with everything, I can go out there and play comfortable now. My head’s not spinning. I’m not getting so caught up in what play we have, all the responsibilities, reading the coverages, how to adjust my routes. You get to play a little more relaxed. The coaches have done a great job of setting up practice to where we get so many more reps. Whether with you’re the ones, the twos, the threes, etc. They’ve done a great job of getting us consistent reps, so that helps as well.
I feel like my athleticism and the athlete that I am, as well as the football player that I am, is sometimes undermined and not really spoken about. And that’s fine. I truly pride myself on just going to work every day, building on it. I just feel like you’re getting a complete player in Marcus Johnson. You’re getting somebody who is gonna push his teammates, everyone around him. More than anything, I’ve really just been crafting. Working on my craft. Building on everything from last season. From being on the practice squad and just understanding the actual offense. I really pride myself on the work that I’ve put in for my routes. Just being a consistent pass catcher. I truly believe the coaches could fit me in wherever they feel.
And the offense is great in itself because it doesn’t matter what position you play. You’re all over the play. So you can be labeled as an X receiver, an outside receiver, and line up at the slot consistently, be moving around. But like I said the offense has so many moving parts to it.
I’ve really just been working on my craft, man. That’s what it comes down to at this point. We’re at the highest level. It’s a blessing to be in this NFL league. But like I tell people, getting here isn’t the [hard] part, it’s building it and having that mindset of wanting to be great, and preparing to be such. That’s what I’m doing and I’m continually pushing myself to be creative and find ways to be the best receiver I can be to help this team win and progress.
Johnson’s point about his underrated athleticism is valid. Most probably don’t realize the 6-1, 204 pound pass catcher posted strong testing numbers. Johnson ran a 4.37 40-yard dash, had a 37-inch vertical leap, and an 11'3 broad jump.
Even if the 22-year-old Johnson makes the team, the reality is he likely won’t see much playing time on Sundays. He projects to be the fifth or sixth receiver at best. Still, Johnson’s progress is worth monitoring this summer.
For more from BGN Radio’s interview with Johnson, check out a transcript below. Or [click here] to listen.
Q: HOW DID HANGING OUT IN NORTH DAKOTA WITH CARSON WENTZ GO?
Man, we really did [have a good time.] Carson did a great job of setting everything up. Fargo has a nice hometown feel. Born and raised in Texas, you get that hometown feel, that country feel. So it was relatable in that sense. The people out there were great, man. Great people out in Fargo. Like I said, he set everything up, we worked out, we got some good work in. Alshon [Jeffery] brought his personal trainer so we were able to get good work on the field and in the weight room. We were efficient with our time, for sure.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES SPENDING TIME WITH CARSON HELP WHEN IT COMES TO PRACTICING ROUTES?
Man, it’s huge. I always tell people chemistry is a tricky thing. It’s one of those things where you have so many moving parts. The playbook is constant changing and evolving. Coaches want different things run different ways. That can disrupt the chemistry that you have with a quarterback. But when we go out there in Fargo and continue to work on our base routes, our base rules, and we build on that. You build from the ground up and build a foundation during this time, during this summer/offseason time, you know you can really go back to that and you can just … going into training camp you have a much better feel with your QB, with Carson, and we all do. It’s great to get that opportunity to do it. We don’t take it lightly or for granted. And we go out there and continue to work on it and build on it.
Q: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM GETTING CUT?
Man, you know, it’s tough. We all have love for each other. It’s been a great camaraderie between the whole receiving group. Coach [Mike] Groh has done a great job of building that competitive spirit between each and every one of us but still having that family feel to it. It hurts when things like that happen. It’s part of the business. You learn that when you get it and you learn it fairly quick. That was unfortunate that it happened, but we continue to just go with what we have. We wish him the best of luck moving forward. There’s not too much I can speak about it from a business aspect or the coaches aspect or whatever it may have been for why it happened, but like you said it’s an opportunity. It’s a blessed situation for me to be able to just have an opportunity to get more reps, step up, taking advantage of the opportunity at hand. That’s what I’m working toward and that’s what I’m preparing for.
Q: SHELTON GIBSON STRUGGLED WITH DROPS IN THE SPRING. HOW MUCH DOES THE MENTAL PART OF THE GAME HINDER SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS CATCHING THE BALL?
I mean, it’s huge. And to be honest, I remember just last year being a rookie, obviously undrafted so it’s a little more pressure behind it, but like I said, your head is spinning. You line up and being in the huddle everything is spoken so fast. You can review your plays all day but it’s a totally different speed from looking at your plays and having it at your own pace to when you get in that huddle and the quarterback shoots out everything at once and then they’re ready to break and you’re outchea. People don’t understand, you have to be locked in. Sometimes you can be so focused on one aspect of your game. That may be knowing your plays. Or ‘I have this route so let me line up and see what adjustments I might need to make based on this coverage.’ And then you can do everything right, but you forget that, oh, well, I need to make this play, I need to make this catch, whether it’s contested or not. It may sound cliche, it may be hard for people to understand, but when you think about so many other things and you prepare for so many other things, which in your mind is the most complicated aspect of the game, you forget to prepare for something so simple as catching. And sometimes that happens to a lot of guys. In Shelton’s case, he’ll settle down, he’ll settle in, he’ll be a playmaker. He’ll be a guy that progresses in training camp.
Q: AND THEN EVERYONE CAN RETWEET THE BAD SHELTON GIBSON TAKES!
Exactly. And that’s what his goal is as well. He just got here and they’re giving him a hard time but he’ll definitely step up in training camp and get some time to settle in a little better.
Q: FROM A TEAM STANDPOINT, WHAT’S BEEN THE MAIN DIFFERENCE IN TERMS OF THIS OFFSEASON?
Definitely excitement. Because, second year with Coach [Doug] Pederson, the entire team as well. We have most of the guys back. And to be honest, I feel like the biggest thing that’s really helped pushed out our entire feel of the game and going forward into this next season is how competitive everything is. When you look from top to bottom, all over the place, guys that were drafted, guys that were brought in from free agency, guys that we already had, it’s a great group of guys from top to bottom. It’s been so competitive. I can definitely speak on that for the receiver room. That levels everybody up. That makes everybody step their game up. Everybody’s approach to each practice and each day has felt different. I feel like we’re all bringing our A game, all coming out — you know, which we always do. But some things you can’t really get out of yourself until you have somebody around you who’s really pushing that out of you to just level up and step their game up. And that’s come, especially in the receiver room with Coach Groh, and as well as the depth that we have right now.