On Quinn Johnson

In his post on Ahmard Hall’s four-game suspension, Andrew mentioned that the Titans had traded an undisclosed draft pick to the Green Bay Packers for fullback Quinn Johnson.  In the statement announcing his acquisition, GM Mike Reinfeldt described Johnson as a “traditional, downhill, blocking fullback.”  In Monday’s press conference, Mike Munchak added some more details on Johnson.

Munchak described Johnson as a bigger version of what the Titans already had in Hall.  One thing he stressed is what the Titans generally ask of their fullbacks is nothing particularly complicated.  This is the case both for two-back protections sets and for the sort of blocking the Titans normally ask of the fullback.  one of the bigger questions Johnson has to answer for at least Sunday’s game will be how quickly he picks up the terminology.  He doesn’t have quite the length of experience in another system that Matt Hasselbeck did, but that might be an issue.

one interesting note Munchak had was that how much Johnson will play will depend on how much time the Titans will spend in two-back sets.  He indicated he expected that to be 8-15 plays.  That’s an interesting number, considering the Titans were in two-back sets 38% of the time last year.  At 60 plays a game, that’s 23 plays a game in two-back, so either the Titans are going to play a lot more singleback at first or they’re going to find somebody else to play in the backfield.  Hall also played a little bit in single-back situations as a blocker, and Johnson’s chance of doing that immediately seems to be pretty much nil.

For more on Johnson’s abilities, I took a look at what Packers bloggers had to say about him.

One of the big recurring themes about Johnson’s play is how one-dimensional he normally was.  By the accounts I read, he’s a well-esteemed straight-ahead blocker on running plays.  Reinfeldt’s description of him as such is absolutely accurate, but the reason the Packers were willing to part with him seems to be that that was all he could do.  Johnson’s reputation is as a fourth-year player whose sense of awareness hasn’t really developed over the first three years of his career.  He also doesn’t seem to be a receiver at all, even less than Hall.  Then again, you might have guessed that from his 5 career catches.

I think the best thing I saw on Johnson comes from Brian Carriveau of the great Packers blog Cheesehead TV, who spoke with former Packers fullback and running backs coach Harry Sydney.  Sydney noted Johnson was a good blocker but not as powerful or as explosive as you’d expect from his size, and that he was better in a straight man-blocking scheme than a zone-blocking system.  I didn’t track it in the preseason, but the Titans have under CJ run more zone than man-blocking.  We’ll see if that changes, but based on Munchak’s presser comments, I don’t expect it to.

The other problem Johnson faced with the Packers is even there, the traditional blocking fullback is a dying breed.  The move is instead toward tight ends that allow you better formational and play-calling flexibility.  The Packers have kept three fullbacks in recent years, but this year kept five tight ends, including JerMichael Finley who spends plenty of time in the slot, and a few players who are more H-backs then traditional in-line tight ends.  That’s a direction I thought the Titans would really be heading, as Jared Cook is a player who really fits the mold of a joker, but Craig Stevens and Daniel Graham, and now Johnson, aren’t nearly as versatile.

From a very selfish perspective, that’s kind of a pity, as I would’ve enjoyed writing about that.  Still, Johnson may not be a worldbeater but should be a more than capable player during Hall’s suspension.  After the suspension, well, we shall have to see.

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