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Juwan Johnson makes most of his opportunities on offense in New Orleans Saints preseason opener

'Just being another presence, a person that can add an aspect of a deep threat'

Photos from the preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Friday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Michael DeMocker/NFL)
Photos from the preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Friday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Michael DeMocker/NFL)

Juwan Johnson didn't have a slew of opportunities to show his wares for the New Orleans Saints in their preseason opener against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Preseason openers don't provide much of a chance for that, with coaching staffs attempting to provide snaps for as many as 90 players. But Johnson made the most of what he had offensively, with downfield receptions both times he was targeted, totaling a game-high 71 yards in the 17-14 loss.

For the receiver-turned-tight end – adding the extra poundage was easy, he said, because he loves to eat and New Orleans restaurants are happy to oblige – it was a glimpse of the skills the Saints believe Johnson can provide.

"I feel like a lot of guys can do that," Johnson said. "It's not just me, but obviously I feel like I can bring that element. Just being another presence, a person that can be an aspect of a deep threat, a valuable target or an asset.

"And just knowing that you have a whole bunch of guys on this offense – you have other tight ends, other wide receivers, and even running backs that make plays – it's good that I can be in that role and make some plays, also. Just to make the offense more efficient."

Johnson's first catch, a 33-yarder from Jameis Winston on first-and-10 from the Saints' 47 with two minutes left in the first half, was the longest gain of a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that gave New Orleans a 14-6 lead.

His second catch, a 38-yarder from Ian Book with 2:06 left and the Saints trailing 17-14, was a short reception that he took to the Raven's 35-yard line to position the Saints for a chance to win it.

"It felt good, being back, playing a different team besides us," he said. "It's just how it was last year. I feel like offensively, we haven't missed much of a beat. We just picked up our stuff and kept going."

Johnson was undrafted in 2020, and had four catches for 39 yards last year.

"I wouldn't say really nerves, it was just more of I was just eager to play," he said of the preseason opener. "Just knowing I haven't played against another team in so long, I was more eager than nervous or anything.

"I was super excited – all the hard work that you put in during the offseason, it's just like, 'All right, now it's time to display it against a different team.' It's something that I looked forward to ever since the last game of the season last year."

Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 231-pounder out of Oregon, said he also looks forward to the blocking aspect of playing his new position.

"I've always had that attitude," he said. "I just love to block. I just love to play football, to be honest with you.

"For me, special teams is kind of big for me because I just love hitting people. That's just kind of my thing. That's just me, that's just always been my mentality, always just wanting to compete, always just wanting make that initial contact to get that nerves out during the game. I'm always just wanting to do anything, because I'm trying to be that team player that everyone needs."

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