It was a chance to prove he’s ready to play on a more consistent basis, a chance to show the coaches what he can do and a chance to truly settle in and play a full game without wondering where his next repetition would come from.
“That San Francisco game when they had me starting out there, I think that was my game where it slowed down a lot more,” Johnson said. “And I finally felt way more comfortable.”
Embracing his opportunity to start in a big game on the road, Johnson acquitted himself well in that game and showed that he was ready for an extended role.
So last week, with Jenkins back in the lineup, Johnson returned to a backup role in terms of the starting lineup but was simultaneously promoted to an increased job as well.
“He’s got a bigger role, he’s now in the nickel,” assistant head coach Dave McGinnis said. “He was drafted with that thought in mind and he’s an athletic corner that’s got really, really good size. What you can see and what you look for in a young player when you bring him in is how quick they can progress, how quick they can digest what you are trying to do and then when they get into the ball games that it’s not too big for them. He’s proven all of those things. We are extremely excited about his future.”
Before that game against San Francisco, Johnson had spent the first eight games of his young career playing sparingly in dime packages, making the occasional cameo on defense and chipping in a variety of ways on special teams.
A third-round pick out of Montana, Johnson’s physical attributes have been on display from day one. At 6’2, 204 pounds, Johnson cuts the frame of an ideal corner with the size, speed and reach combination to make life difficult for opposing wideouts.
“Trumaine made a lot of plays at Montana, he’s a physical tackler, has real good ball skills and has athletic ability for a big corner,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s just continued to progress here. He’s doing the things on special teams we asked of him and he’s playing pretty good football in the nickel right now.”
Coming from a smaller school, though, there was a certain adjustment period for Johnson to grow accustomed to before he felt like he could perform on a consistent basis. Getting the chance to play much more proved to be just the answer.
“I think I adjusted to the speed of the game way faster just by getting reps,” Johnson said. “They put me in there and I feel way more comfortable now, too.”
Of course, just because Johnson is more comfortable by no means signals that he’s a finished product, not by a long shot.
Johnson fell victim to a couple of pump fakes last week against the Jets, moments that left him watching extra film in order to correct his errors.
“If you play corner in this league, there are going to be glitches from now and forever,” McGinnis said. “That is probably the most difficult position in this league to play just because of the way the rules are and the type of athletes you are dealing with in open space.”
Johnson is taking nothing for granted in terms of his current role and he continues to develop.
Nonetheless, the vote of confidence from the coaching staff should only help Johnson as he closes out his first season in the league.
“Of course,” Johnson said. “That’s saying that the coaches trust me a little more. That’s a good thing to have. I am just taking it day by day. They have got me starting at the nickel right now and I am just trying to take advantage of my opportunity.”
TWO WELLS WORTH: This is the first year of the rule that allows every NFL team to designate one player with a potentially season ending injury to return after eight weeks.
The Rams and Cardinals both have taken advantage of the rule and, coincidentally, both teams will be getting their players back on the field for the first time this week. Even more of a coincidence is the shared surname between the players.
That’s right, each team will return a Wells to the mix in time for Sunday’s game as the Cardinals activated running back Beanie and the Rams recalled center Scott.
It remains to be seen what each player’s role will be this week but it’s probably wise to expect each to have to shake off at least a little bit of rust.
“Yes, I think so,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “You need the time to prepare and I’m sure like their player, Beanie’s been practicing, so that helps, but there’s no substitute for actual games and we don’t have a preseason game to kind of get warmed up like you’re normally do. So, you go from zero to 60 pretty quick, you know.”
ARIZONA MAKES ITS CHOICE: After replacing John Skelton, who had replaced Kevin Kolb, with rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley early last week against Atlanta, the Cardinals found themselves searching for a solution for this week against the Rams.
On Wednesday, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged that he’d be going with Lindley to make his first career start on Sunday.
Lindley doesn’t have a whole lot of film out there aside from the preseason and the end of last week’s game. But the Rams believe they have enough to scrape together some form of scouting report.
“He’s a good player,” Fisher said. “He’s got good vision, he’s tall and he moves around the pocket well. Atlanta is a tough defense to make your debut against but with a week of practice, obviously he’s going to be a concern.”
INJURY REPORT: The Rams made a couple of minor tweaks to their injury report following Thursday’s practice.
Those three players’ status won’t become clear until later in the week.
Arizona again had a lengthy list of players on its injury report. Of note on the limited participation list were end Calais Campbell (calf), safety Kerry Rhodes (back) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (ribs).