The NFL preseason is tailor made for players like Tennessee Titans receiver Marcus Johnson.
The 27-year-old wideout, who spent the last three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, was a depth signing during the offseason. But thanks to a strong training camp, he has caught the attention of Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Todd Downing.
Now, as the Titans are set to play the Atlanta Falcons in their first preseason game of 2021, Johnson is on the verge of contending for more than just a role as a sixth receiver or practice squad call-up.
“Marcus has been an example of someone who has taken advantage of the opportunity to go out there and get some runs with the ones,” Downing said. “He has really done a nice job of being consistent both at X and Z out on the perimeter.”
In four seasons — three with the Colts and one with the Philadelphia Eagles — Johnson has 42 receptions, 679 yards and three touchdowns. He’s played in 10 or more games just twice and he has never started more than six games in any season.
But Johnson has been working his way up the depth chart with each practice over the last two weeks. He seems like a near-lock for the Titans’ 53-man roster, and it’s not completely crazy to think he could even potentially challenge Josh Reynolds for the No. 3 receiver job behind A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
“When you get in there for whatever reason, whether the guy in front of you is not out there or you have earned the right, which I would say is both cases for Marcus,” Vrabel said.
“[Johnson] has earned the right to be out there. He has been durable because he has been out there every day, been available. He has gotten better; whatever mistakes he makes he quickly corrects and rarely makes the same mistake twice. I would say that is a good model that we should all look at for training camp.”
While Brown and Jones are not likely to see much, if any, action during the preseason, the time could be now for Johnson, who has been practicing with the first string for much of training camp, to make a name for himself.
He faces an uphill battle with not only Reynolds, but Chester Rogers, Dez Fitzpatrick, Racey McMath, Cameron Batson and Fred Brown champing at the bit to lay claim to a roster spot for themselves. But as Johnson admits, competition elevates his game.
“I know what adversity looks like,” Johnson said. “I know this league; I know myself and what I can bring. It brings the best out of me.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_