Don’t sleep on Darryl Johnson at EDGE. For me, he’ll be the Bills’ 9th and final DL, beating out Trent Murphy, Mike Love, Bryan Cox, and Jonathan Woodard.
Who was on the Bills’ radar at EDGE in April 2019? Let me take you back to the draft before last. The players the Bills were considering at EDGE in April 2019 dominated the pre-draft 30-visits: The Other Josh Allen, Rashan Gary, Montez Sweat, Brian Burns, Jaylon Ferguson, Maxx Crosby, and Shareef Miller all came to town. But Ed Oliver falling to the Bills forced Beane’s hand. Beane took the iDL over an EDGE rusher. Oliver was DraftTek’s #2 player on its Big Board that fall, and mocks I trust had him in the #5 to #7 draft slot.
Who else would the Bills have looked at? The Bills’ Shrine Game visits seemed an afterthought at the time. EDGE guys like Darryl Johnson from NC A&T, Tennessee’s Kyle Phillips, & Derick Roberson from Sam Houston State all got postseason face time with Bills scouts. Darryl Johnson won, and here’s why: the number 1.44.
1.44 was Johnson’s average Tackles for Loss per Game enroute to his 2018 MEAC DPOY title. That was 2nd among ALL EDGE rushers in his class, and no EDGE in the 2021 class has a higher number.
DJ added 10.5 sacks and 50 tackles, a forced fumble, and seven QB hits. In his career, DJ logged 66 tackles (35 unassisted), with 22 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. So most of his damage was done in his redshirt junior year. He felt he’d done what he’d set out to do, and he declared for the draft a year early. Draftniks like Jon Ledyard oohed and aahed over how low DJ got in his arc to the quarterback.
At the last St. John Fisher Training Camp, I felt sorry for Darryl. As I wrote in my Astro-Notes at Practice 6 and Practice 7, as he had that look of things being too big for him. While he was almost always the first player out on the field for practice, he stood alone much of the time on the sideline.
But, as usual, DJ showed more promise than anyone expected in his first two preseason games. A week after recording 3 tackles, 1 sack, and a pass defensed against the Colts in Preseason Week 1, Johnson recorded a late sack and a forced fumble against Carolina. Welcome to the NFL.
DJ was underused with Lawson and Murphy ahead of him, and only had 5 tackles through Week 7. He didn’t even play in 8 games. However, in his final game vs the Jets, Darryl had 5 tackles. He’s worth a roster spot, especially with Lawson gone to the Dolphins and Murphy gone to save $10M. Hughes isn’t getting younger, either. In fact, Darryl Johnson’s the same weight and speed as Jerry Hughes.
The best read on Darryl Johnson’s rags-to-riches story is this one. I urge BillsMafia to read it. It tells you more about why Darryl Johnson’s faith in himself led him from being an afterthought acceptance with no scholarship to an FCS school to his conference Defensive Player of the Year honors –just as he had predicted to his coach. How he led the conference in sacks –just as he had predicted to his coach. He was an afterthought by the Bills in RD7, too.
But I wouldn’t bet against him.
Editor’s babble: This is just soooo good. I love seventh round gems like the Johnsons… Darryl and Stevie. Strong feeling he’s going to have a break out year and Dean’s summary here is exactly why. Thanks to Dean Kindig, as always for this valuable contributions to our blog. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.