In addition to DT Quinnen Williams and CB Sauce Gardner being named Pro Bowl players for a second consecutive season, Jermaine Johnson will make his first all-star appearance at the NFL's Pro Bowl Games this week in Orlando, FL. Johnson, initially one of the Jets' six Pro Bowl alternates, got the call from the league on Tuesday to join his two defensive teammates, replacing Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack, who is unable to participate due to injury.
After the Jets took Johnson with the 26th overall selection in the 2022 draft, he lined up in 14 games as a rookie and played 312 defensive snaps while totaling 2.5 sacks. The super sophomore started 17 contests this past season, racking up 7.5 sacks, 11 TFL and 7 PDs over 747 defensive snaps. He also ran back an interception for a TD.
"He had that first year where he was kind of hidden behind a really good D-line [defensive line] and he had an unbelievable offseason, put in a lot of work and it's so cool just to watch a young man who put in the work that he needed to in the offseason to reap the rewards of his labor," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich of Johnson said during the season. "He's doing a great job, grossly underrated in my opinion, but he's going to be good for a long time."
Johnson was part of a transformative '22 draft class that also included Gardner (No. 4), already a two-time first-team All Pro; WR Garrett Wilson (No. 10), who has totaled 178 receptions and reached 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons; and RB Breece Hall (No. 36), whose 1,585 combined yards in 2023 were fourth-best in the league coming off an ACL tear that short-circuited his rookie season.
"Jermaine has been awesome, and I feel bad for him because he kind of gets lost in the shuffle of the four picks that we had that gets celebrated, with Sauce and Garrett and Breece, but Jermaine is playing at a Pro Bowl level," HC Robert Saleh said in late December. "He's disruptive. He changes games. He gets after to the quarterback. He's awesome in the run game, playing through so much pain right now."
Johnson displayed his unique athleticism in front of the nation, batting a Joe Flacco ball into the air in Cleveland on Dec. 28 and picking it off before racing 37 yards for an INT-return TD.
"You got to be a freak to be able to do something like that," Saleh said. "He's got freakish, athleticism instincts. You got to be extremely instinctive."
Johnson, who amassed 55 tackles (36 solos), also recovered a fumble vs. the Browns and added a blocked punt on special teams in a win over the Commanders on Christmas Eve.
"I haven't proved anything," he said at the conclusion of the Jets' 7-10 campaign. "What I did has been done. I haven't done anything after that. So just keep going, staying humble, and reminding myself I haven't done nothing."
While his approach won't change, Johnson can now celebrate his first Pro Bowl invite.