Tennessee Titans receiver Marcus Johnson showed what the rest of the Nashville media knew he was capable of all along in Sunday’s 23-21 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Johnson, who wowed Titans coaches with his work ethic and the number of eye-opening plays he made during training camp, recorded his third career 100-yard game on Sunday, finishing with five receptions on six targets for 100 yards as the Titans picked up their sixth straight win.
The 27-year-old Johnson is the only player not named A.J. Brown to lead the Titans in receiving more than once this season, and he’s just the third Titans receiver to record a 100-yard game (Brown and Julio Jones are the others).
“You know you see Julio not make it to the game,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We need somebody to step up and fill that role for us. Marcus [is] able to do that. He creates more balance for us offensively and we can run our offense.
"He got some opportunities, and every time the ball went his way, he made the play. Hats off to Marcus. Excited to see him get going a little bit. Hopefully, we can build on it.”
The only Titans receiver with more than one reception against the Saints, Johnson also had more yards after the catch (66) than any other Titans players had yards. Running back D’Onta Foreman was the next closest with 48 receiving yards.
A former Texas Longhorn who enjoyed modest success as a college player, Johnson also factored into the return game with three kick returns for 54 yards, including a 27-yard long.
“It feels great,” Johnson said. “Like (head coach Mike) Vrabel said, (my performance is) a confidence booster. I obviously believe in myself, but sometimes you need to show it to prove yourself right.”
“It was huge,” Vrabel said of Johnson’s performance. “It was what we needed to see from Marcus; I think Marcus needed to see a little bit of that for himself. But had a really good game for us.”
Johnson missed the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury but had a solid debut against Jacksonville in Week 5, hauling in three receptions for 52 yards on five targets. He was Tennessee’s leading receiver that game.
He was targeted just seven times over the next four games, recording just one reception for eight yards over that span. Receivers like Chester Rogers and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine seemingly passed hm on the depth chart, and Johnson was failing to live up to the high bar he set for himself in camp.
“These last couple weeks have been tough,” Johnson admitted. “I feel like I kind of hit a wall and I just locked in. I kept grinding it out and trusting my routine…Believing in yourself, having teammates that got your back, coaches that got your back, having opportunities like I did today and just taking advantage of [them].”
Johnson’s performance on Sunday was reminiscent of the type of efforts he put forth during training camp when he and Rogers were getting plenty of reps with the first team offense and regularly turning heads.
During that time, Tannehill noted that he was building a nice rapport with Johnson while Brown and Jones were held out. The relationship forged during the hottest days of the summer is what Tannehill credits for Johnson’s breakout game.
“I have a ton of faith in Marcus every time he steps out there,” Tannehill stated. “Going back to training camp, and then he’s had a couple opportunities to step up and make plays for us this year. When he caught that early one, coming underneath and then gunning for the open space, I knew he had some juice, so I was excited to see that happen.”
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