Bombers' Johnson admits lazy start
By JIM BENDER, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson (r) chases down wide receiver Kurt Adams during practice in Winnipeg Saturday October 06, 2012. (QMI Agency/BRIAN DONOGH)
WINNIPEG - There was a time not so long ago that the Indefatigable One almost never left the field.
So, I would never have used the term "lazy" to describe Winnipeg's Jovon Johnson.
But the Blue Bomber became the first defensive back to ever win the CFL Defensive Player of the Year Award last season, and you might say it did cause some swelling between his ears.
"To begin the year, I struggled a little bit at corner just because of my focus," Johnson admitted Saturday. "I wasn't getting the ball thrown at me as much as I would have liked, so I had a tendency to get complacent and to get lazy out there, not expecting them to throw at me. Then, when they did, I wasn't in position to make a play.
"That just comes with the season I had last year. Teams started the season off not throwing at me, so that kind of forced me to get lazy because I didn't expect to get balls thrown at me. Then, when they did, I had two breakdowns where I gave up two big touchdown plays and that's not in my character. That's not the player that I am, and I'm much better than that."
And yes, more was expected of the CFL all-star, especially during a horrendous start where the Bombers went 0-4 on the road.
"You've got to take the good with the bad and this year, we've been struggling," Johnson said. "We started out struggling a lot on defence and weren't really giving our offence a chance, and offensively, we've struggled some.
"So, it's been a domino effect ... and then, we've been giving up big plays on special teams. So, we just have to collectively come together and be much better as a team."
Johnson did his part by volunteering to convert to the strong-side (SAM) linebacker spot that had been so difficult to fill after the Bombers sent veteran Clint Kent packing. But Johnson struggled there at first, too.
"It's different. I'm getting comfortable now playing it and being in the box a lot more," said the 5-foot-9, 182-pound Iowa product. "The thing about it is, it's hard to make plays at that spot because, most of the time, you've got your back to the quarterback so, you can't really see what's going on. But I think I'm getting better at it and I think I'm getting better each week."
Bombers head coach Tim Burke concurred.
"Every week, he's gotten a little more comfortable with it and now, he's into the flow of it," Burke said. "I mean, it was tough at the beginning. But he's a smart guy. He's very instinctive, so it's a good position for him."
Johnson, 28, is the third defensive back to be tested at the position this season.
"It's different dealing with offensive linemen and tackling running backs and getting blocked by fullbacks a lot," said Johnson, who does not know if the move will be a long-term solution. "I guess we'll have to see at the end of the year. I've always been told that the more you can do, the better you can build your resume and you make yourself that much more valuable. So, I just try to do as much as I can in order to help the team win and if it's long term, it's long term."
Johnson has already played every secondary position and has served as a superb punt returner.
Johnson is also a team leader who is still clinging to the rapidly-fading hopes of making the playoffs this year.
"We have to win out pretty much, but it’s doable," he said before the Bombers headed to Montreal to face the Als on Monday. "We’ve started slow for a number of games which ultimately cost us. So, it’s just a matter of going out and performing and playing 60 minutes."