Zion Johnson has steadily risen up boards over the past for months and for good reason.
He aced every single examination that he’s gone through both physically and mentally during the draft cycle. He was a zero-star recruit coming out of high school and originally played college football at Davidson. He later transferred to Boston College where he continued to grow and improve. He played both guard and tackle for the Eagles, but was at his best when playing left guard. He’s not a superb athlete on film despite the phenomenal testing. Instead, he wins with strength, technique, intelligence, and smooth movement.
Let’s take a look at the film and see how he would fit with the Bengals.
What He Does Well
- Johnson’s ability to utilize his core strength to torque defenders is fantastic. He not only moves defenders with this, but will put them on the ground. This is where his strength really shines. He can create movement in a stalemate and will win reps that most linemen normally wouldn’t because of this ability.
- His ability to quickly sit down and anchor against power is impressive. He barely gives up any ground when taking on bullrushes or blitzers from depth. His wide base and low center of gravity help, but he will quickly sink his hips and get underneath the defender to establish leverage.
- He is very good and mirroring pass rushers and staying latched with his grip strength. He can play within a phone booth very well and his short area quickness is aided by how smooth he is in protection.
- Johnson processes everything the defense is doing quickly. Whether it’s a twist, blitz, or slant, he’s ready to pick it up. He does not seem to be confused by post snap movement and is typically in great position to pass off stunts.
- He works really well on his combination and double team blocks. He utilizes great footwork on both gallop and more traditional doubles/combos and knows precisely when to come off of these blocks. He is rarely caught hanging on to them for too long.
- He plays with nastiness and wants to exert his will upon the defense on every snap. The defense will know pain with the style that he plays with. He will look to put defenders on the ground often and establish a physical brand of football.
NFL Draft Film Breakdown: Tyler Linderbaum Shines Despite Size Concerns
What Needs Work
- Johnson doesn’t have the best balance. Late in reps, he will fall off of blocks or be tossed aside because of this issue. Strong defensive tackles gave him issues in the run game when they were able to match him.
- Despite his combine testing, he isn’t an elite athlete. This doesn’t show up too often in pass protection, but it does show up in the run game and on screens. Mostly when he hits the open field and he cannot quickly adjust to linebackers trying to dip underneath him. Sometimes he is too slow to get out on screens to pick up players as well.
- His stance is a bit off with how far back his outside foot is and how it’s pointed outwards. Along with this, his kick slide could use some work because it’s a bit choppy at times and his kick foot can end up getting too high off of the ground. This is one of the only technical issues that I saw on film.
Johnson is a former golfer that has worked from nothing to become a first round pick. He won in college despite his limited experience and will look to continue to do so at the NFL level.
In pass protection, he has the strength and technical ability to quickly sit and anchor against defenders who try to bully him while also having the velvety smooth movement ability to mirror players who threaten either edge. He does a great job in confined areas to keep up with pass rushers. This combination should make him a quality pass protector early in his NFL career. He also is a very cerebral player who will pick up stunts at a heightened level. He just needs to iron out his kick slide and to place him in a more acceptable stance.
In the run game, he may not have elite movement traits, but he makes up for it with his strength and technical proficiency. The torque he creates with his core strength is phenomenal. He also does a wonderful job on combination blocks and double teams for the zone running game. Finally, the malevolence that he brings to the running game is something that other teams will covet.
He works best in a varied running game, but also should not need much help in pass protection. He can make every block at the NFL level, but would be best served in a situation where he is not asked to consistently play in space.
Mid-Late First Round
Make sure you bookmark All Bengals for the latest free agency news, exclusive interviews, film breakdowns and so much more!
You May Also Like:
Scroll to Continue
Blake’s Take: Bengals Address Big Needs in 7-Round Mock Draft
Four Veterans the Bengals Could Still Sign in Free Agency
Movie Breakdown: Tyler Linderbaum Shines Despite Size Concerns
La’el Collins’ Contract is Bargain for Bengals
Door Still Open in Potential Larry Ogunjobi Return
National Analyst Praises Bengals After Additions in Free Agency
Mike Hilton Recruiting Top Free Agent Cornerback
Film Breakdown: What Hayden Hurst Adds to the Bengals’ Offense
La’el Collins Praises Joe Burrow After Signing With Bengals
Film Breakdown: Here’s What La’el Collins Brings to the Cincinnati Bengals
La’el Collins to Joe Burrow: “Your New Bodyguard is in Town”
Bengals Beat Out Multiple Teams to Land La’el Collins
Joe Burrow Helped Seal the Deal With La’el Collins
Bengals Interested in Top Free Agent Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
Chad Ochocinco Johnson Recruiting La’el Collins to Bengals
Bengals Sign Tight End Hayden Hurst to One-Year Contract
Look: Joe Burrow Appears to be Working Out With No Limitations
CJ Uzomah Says Goodbye to Cincinnati
Top Tight Ends Signing Elsewhere as Bengals’ Options Dwindle
Five Recently Released Players the Bengals Should Consider Adding
Dave Lapham Weighs in on Potential La’el Collins Trade
Film Breakdown: Analyzing Ted Karras’ Strengths and Weaknesses
Film Breakdown: Alex Cappa is Huge Upgrade in Trenches for Bengals
Be sure to keep it locked on All Bengals all the time!
Subscribe to the All Bengals YouTube channel
Follow AllBengals on Twitter: @AllBengals
Like Our Facebook Page
Subscribe and follow the ONLY Daily Bengals Podcast