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Jets DE Jermaine Johnson's Explosiveness 'Day and Night' Compared to Last Season

Second-Year Player More Comfortable in System; DC Jeff Ulbrich Excited About Potential of Florida State Product


Some second-year players have sophomore slumps, but Jets edge rusher Jermaine Johnson is ready for a sophomore jump.

"I just feel day and night in terms of explosiveness," Johnson said during OTAs. "Explosiveness, technique, building my body, stuff like that. Just old school, you know. Just in the weight room all the time, eating, making sure I'm good.

"We [the defensive line room] like to make jokes. I just had a daughter, so now I have the father strength they call it or whatnot. But I'm just seeing crazy changes right now, it's making me very excited and I know everyone else in the building is excited because when I'm at my best, I know it's just going to help the team."

Johnson had a typical rookie season in 2022 that included flashes -- like when he blocked a punt against the Bills in Buffalo that resulted in a safety. He also sacked Bills QB Josh Allen at MetLife Stadium by chasing Allen in a foot race to the corner that would have resulted in a big gain if Johnson hadn't corralled the QB. Johnson, the third of three first-round picks in the 2022 draft, finished his rookie season with 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 5 QB hits as well as 29 tackles.

"I feel insanely more comfortable for a couple of reasons," Johnson said. "One, I never did it before at this level last year, so I didn't really know what to expect. Everything's moving so fast and now, I had an opportunity to have a proper offseason to build my body to what I want it to be. Last year, I didn't have that. We're getting ready for the Combine and whatnot. As a rookie, you're kind of trying to play catch up in terms of football development, but this offseason has given me a lot of confidence let alone understanding what everyone expects of me this year in the building and wants for me this year in the building."

See the best photos of Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams, Jermaine Johnson and the Jets defensive line.

The pads don't come on until mid-July, so Johnson and the defensive line largely participated in individual drills during the offseason program, often competing on their get-off times. There's only so much to work on while doing drills in T-shirts, shorts and helmets, but defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich senses the Jets will see a different, an improved, version of Johnson in Year 2.

"I've seen a guy that's just matured," he said. "When he got here last year, there were some ups and downs, as there are with all rookies. It's a hard transition coming to this league, the length of the season, everything about it. He is in such a better place this year. You can just feel that he's settled. He understands exactly what he wants to get accomplished, and more importantly, he understands how to get that accomplished.

"Seeing him work out here, it's not just a guy just straining and flailing and working hard. There's a deliberate approach to every drill that he has. He knows exactly the things that he needs to work on and improve and I'm excited about what he could become. I really am."

With roughly a month off between OTAs and the start of training camp, Johnson's plan during the break is simple – work.

"We're getting to it," he said. "OTAs may be over, but I'm still training. It's a perfect time to work on my pass rush and get that all fine tuned before we get come back into training camp."

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