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Jermaine Johnson's Goals in Year 3: 'Big Plays, All Year. Be the Reason'

All-Pro Haason Reddick Is Among the New Faces Along the Jets Defensive Line


Jermaine Johnson's progression from his rookie year to last season has universally been described as a "leap." Now, with the Jets' 2024 NFL season on the horizon, inquiring minds want to know just how high Johnson can go.

Between his first and second seasons, Johnson committed himself to getting bigger and stronger. He said that this offseason ahead of his third professional campaign was no different.

"Same way, get better, be critical of yourself, know that this team expects big things from me," he said. "And me, myself, expect big things from me.

"Big plays, all year. Be the reason. I always want to be the reason we win and I want to be the reason we lose. I want the opportunity to win the game. I want the opportunity to be on the field and make a big play for my team. I'd rather it'd be on me than anybody else."

Before the NFL Combine in 2022, the Eden Prairie, MN, native weighed in at 254 pounds. In his rookie season after being drafted in the first round (No. 26 overall), Johnson played in 14 games, had 2.5 sacks, 29 tackles, 3 TFL, 5 QB hits and also notched a blocked punt in a Week 14 game against Buffalo that resulted in a safety.

Advance the tape to last season after Johnson dedicated himself to upping his game in the offseason, and Johnson -- now wearing his preferred No. 11 Jets jersey -- put on 8 pounds of muscle on his 6-5 frame. And for the edge, the results speak for themselves: 17 starts in 17 games, 7.5 sacks, 55 tackles (36 solo), 11 TFL, 16 QB hits and an interception against Cleveland that he ran back for his first NFL TD. His strong play earned Johnson his first selection to the Pro Bowl.

Take a look through some of the best photos of the Jets defensive lineman during the offseason.

That, indeed, was a big jump. Now Johnson talks more about incremental steps, maintaining concentration and staying dedicated to his craft.

"You're never as good as you think you are. You're never as bad as you think you are," he said. "So just keep watching the film. Find ways you can get better. Be critical of yourself. Never forget the little things. Stance, start technique, alignment, assignment, all those things that have been taught to me from a young age. Never let those things get away from you. Just being humble, being critical. Don't forget the little things."

In his sophomore season, Johnson took 66% of the snaps on defense as the Jets' defense continued to be counted among the top units in the league. Looking ahead to the coming season, the Green & White will have a different look on the defensive line with second-year player Will McDonald, plus Javon Kinlaw and Leki Fotu added in free agency.. Bryce Huff left in free agency (for Philadelphia) and John Franklin-Myers was traded to Denver. General manager Joe Douglas wasted little time, quickly trading with the Eagles for edge Haason Reddick. In his first season with the Eagles, in 2022, Reddick had 16 sacks and 5 forced fumbles and followed that up last season with 11 sacks and a forced fumble.

"Haason Reddick, amazing guy, talented, talented player," Johnson said. "Congratulations to Bryce and JFM, I know they're excited about their moves and they're ready to go. Happy they got contracts, but we have to be ready to make plays on Sunday for our team so I'm just excited about who we brought in and I'm excited about the quality and character they have. I'm just excited to work with them."

The draft class the Jets ushered in ahead of the 2022 season has helped to transform the team and the team's culture. Three first-rounders -- CB Sauce Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson and Johnson -- and a game-breaker in the second round in RB Breece Hall. Emerging TE in Jeremy Ruckert in the third round and quality depth plucked in the fourth round in OL Max Mitchell and DL Micheal Clemons.

Not only good players, but young and talented leaders.

"A lot of people talk about the expectations the team has for us and stuff like that, but I think we have higher expectations for ourselves," Johnson said. "That stuff doesn't really get to us. We just know what we're capable of and nothing short of that is acceptable. That can be on the field, off the field. As a leader, we know what our job is and what we're capable of. So just being able to carry that out, I think we're all on the same page."

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