Thursday, October 24, 2013
Falcons decide to unleash the 'Truth'
By Vaughn McClure
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- More often than not, you'll find Darius Johnson with his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame contorted inside his locker texting on his cell phone to drown out the surrounding world.
"I just be chilling, man," the Atlanta Falcons rookie said. "I just sit hear listening to these receivers talk noise all the time."
Atlanta's newest WR duo is Harry Douglas (83) and Darius Johnson.
Johnson can trash talk back now. He's no longer buried in obscurity. In fact, he lived up to the nickname he got in high school when he caught his first two NFL passes last Sunday.
Yes, the Falcons unleashed the "Truth" against the Buccaneers.
"Darius Johnson made a couple key catches for us," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "Specifically on a curl route, he made a great catch. ...The more those guys make those kinds of plays, the more confidence they're going to have."
Johnson, who joined the Falcons as an undrafted rookie from SMU, was on the practice squad up until last Saturday. He was promoted to the active roster to add depth at wide receiver, with Julio Jones undergoing season-ending foot surgery and Roddy White sidelined by hamstring and ankle injuries.
Many were surprised when Johnson played 35 of 46 offensive snaps in his first-career game -- but he wasn't.
The coaches informed Johnson of their decision to elevate him last Monday. He got reps with the first team in practice to help develop some sort of chemistry with Ryan. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter knew Johnson was going to get a lot of snaps because Kevin Cone wasn't going to get pulled off special teams and Brian Robiskie wasn't yet fully up to speed with the offense.
"I was overwhelmed, really," Johnson said. "It was a dream for me. So I'm actually living out my dream."
No one has pinched him just yet.
Johnson pulled down a 12-yard catch on his team's second drive last Sunday. Then he followed with a 12-yard gain off a curl route in the third quarter, picking up a first down. Johnson made a leaping grab with three defenders surrounding him.
He figured he gained a little more respect from Ryan after that play, especially considering Ryan reinforced his feelings.
"For him to even throw that ball to me shows he has confidence in me," Johnson said. "After it, he said, 'I'm glad you caught that because it kind of sailed on me a little bit. It was a bit high.' It was a good thing for him to say that."
Apparently, the Falcons found a great catch in Johnson, who led the team with 13 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. This Sunday, he might be relied upon even more if the Cardinals try to take Harry Douglas out of the game with top cornerback Patrick Peterson. Douglas is coming off a career-best 149 receiving yards.
Koetter pointed out how much Johnson is helped by getting so many reps on the scout team in practice.
"Darius, through training camp and through the first six weeks of the season, he's getting a ton of reps," Koetter said. "That guy's been getting better every day."
Johnson can come out of hiding now. He's no secret any longer.