Johnson Expects Bigger, Better Things in Second Season
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – For Ed Johnson, the time for surprises is over.
Johnson, a second-year defensive tackle, not only made the Colts last season as a rookie, he did so as an undrafted free agent and started all 16 games, the only lineman on the NFL's third-ranked defense to do so.
Now, Johnson is in his second training camp with the Colts.
He's not a rookie anymore.
He's not wide-eyed, nor is he overlooked.
He's just a veteran player trying to improve, and Johnson said that's what he expects to do.
"I'm a little more comfortable," Johnson said recently during Colts 2008 Training Camp, which continued Monday at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
"I know what to expect. The whole comfort level is totally different."
Not that Johnson played like he was too uncomfortable last season.
Johnson, after entering training camp as a backup, became a starter when veteran Anthony "Booger" McFarland sustained a season-ending knee injury in camp. He finishing eighth on the team with 63 tackles, 49 solos and also had a sack, eight quarterback pressures, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
"Ed's doing fine," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "He's picking up right where he left off. Last year, he was kind of the unknown factor. He played well and caught us by surprise.
"You're hoping he comes back with the same attitude and fire and he has. He's doing well."
Johnson said while he has returned with the same intensity, he said he has done so with a slightly different focus. Although he said he played well at times last season considering it was his rookie season, Johnson said he can and should improve in his second season.
"I look back, and I was laughing today," Johnson said following a one-hour practice Saturday morning. "I remember this practice last year. I was dying.
"It's just a total new season once you get that year under your belt."
Johnson, who said this past off-season that a primary goal this season is to make more high-impact plays, said the means by which to do so is simple, if not easy. It's about work and focus, he said, and it's about working and being focused in the off-season and into training camp.
"You've got to get out there and play," Johnson said. "You've got to look at film from last year. You have to understand your strengths and weaknesses and continue to work on your weaknesses. That's how you get better – knowing yourself, knowing your weaknesses and improving on them.
"Nothing gets you ready for football like football. There's all the preparation you can do, but nothing gets you ready like football. I'm more ready than I've been out there."
And Johnson said while he – like any NFL rookie – wasn't as prepared last season as a veteran may have been, he also said even when he was an unknown last year, he never doubted that he eventually would emerge as a starter, and a solid player.
"I believed in my ability," Johnson said. "I thank God for blessing me. I know what I can do. I work on my technique. I try to get my techniques down right. I came into a system that was very similar to the one I played in college.
"Like I said, I know what I could do. I just had to let them know what I can do."
Which Johnson said is a major reason he is anticipating this season. He knew his potential last season, and if he surprised many outside the Colts, he said he didn't play as well at times as he believed he could. That, he said, is what he wants most to change this season.
"I'm really excited," Johnson said. "For a lot of people, I just came on the scene. Nobody knew about me. I think teams are going to be more prepared for me, more ready. I think it's going to be a lot more challenging, but it should be fun. I'm ready for the challenge and I'm ready to get it going."
And Johnson said the level of improvement a second-year veteran can – and should make – in the NFL can't be underestimated. It's an improvement about which Dungy and Colts President Bill Polian often speak.
Johnson said he saw such improvement in the off-season and said he has seen it in Terre Haute the past few days, too.
"It's a major difference," Johnson said. "As I said, I'm more comfortable out there. I don't have to second guess everything. I don't have to worry about, 'OK, if I do this, what is this guy going to say?' or, 'Is coach going to say this?' You know what I'm saying?
"I don't have to ask as many questions as I did to the guys next to me like last year. It's just about the comfort level and knowing what's going on."