Skip to main content

Saints News | New Orleans Saints |

Safety Lonnie Johnson completes impressive showing by delivering on his word for New Orleans Saints in preseason victory

'I kind of told (teammates), I was like, 'I'm about to end it'"

The New Orleans Saints took the field for workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Tuesday, August 22.
The New Orleans Saints took the field for workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Tuesday, August 22.

Lonnie Johnson Jr. called his shot.

During a break in the action of Sunday's preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., with the Saints holding a 22-17 lead and the Chargers attempting to drive for a game-winning touchdown, Johnson assumed the responsibility of sending the Saints home with their second preseason win in as many games.

He vowed to intercept an Easton Stick pass to help the Saints finish the deal.

Call the fifth-year safety a man of his word, because with 53 seconds left and the Chargers facing fourth-and-4 from the Saints' 28-yard line, Johnson settled under a Stick attempt at the 1, then scampered five yards to the 6 before giving himself up to end the play and, effectively, the game.

"I've done that before, for the Texans," Johnson said, "but it just felt good doing it here because we've got a lot of great vets: (safeties) Tyrann (Mathieu), Marcus Maye, (cornerback) Marshon (Lattimore), all of them.

"And I kind of told them, like, before that, I was like, 'I'm about to end it.'

"When I saw the ball in the air, I was actually just talking to myself as it was coming. I was just like, 'Lonnie, slow your heart down, slow your heart down, slow your heart down.' Slow it down, make everything slow motion, make the easy catch because those are the hardest ones to catch, when it's a gimme."

Johnson couldn't have scripted a much better end considering his start: a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the opening kickoff, when he inadvertently yanked off Derius Davis' helmet.

"Honestly, it was kind of like a tough play," he said. "He had a guy in between (me and) him, and I tried to reach around and tackle both of them. It happens. It's football, it happens.

"Coach just said, it's an effort play. Just try not to pull through with the helmet coming off at the end. But other than that, it's like the 'next play' mentality. Just go to the next play, continue playing and go out here and try to make a big play for the team."

Johnson, who finished with a couple of tackles on defense, did just that, even bouncing back on special teams. At gunner, he downed a punt at the 5 in the first quarter and in the second, when Davis muffed a punt, Johnson crushed him as he tried to retrieve the ball before kicking it out of bounds.

"I think that was one of my better special team games," Johnson said. "I feel like I did everything they asked me to do. They were looking for a lot of things out of me on special teams and I went out there tried to execute everything that they wanted me to do.

"(On special teams) just go out there and be fast and physical. Showcase my speed at gunner. I felt like I did that, whether that was downing the ball at the 5, making a big hit at gunner. Just doing everything possible. I feel like I sell myself short if I don't show them everything that I can do."

He's showing, and they're noticing.

"I think Lonnie did a lot of good things," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I think Lonnie has done a lot of good things throughout training camp. It's really about continuing to stack days together, being able to make plays and yet eliminate negative plays. I thought there was a number of things, both defensively and in the kicking game, that were productive."

Every little bit helps as Johnson seeks to earn a roster spot in the Saints' crowded, talented secondary.

"I don't look at it that way, as fighting for a spot," he said. "I just look at it as, what is my role to help the team? Obviously, Tyrann and Marcus Maye are their starters. Where can I fit in?

"They had a role for me out there with the (starters) today (in practice). So just where can I fit in, then obviously helping out on special teams any way I can. That's my job here. I'm not looking to be the guy, but if my opportunity comes, like it came in the game, I'm going to execute on it and I'll be ready for it."

GRAHAM UPDATE: Tight end Jimmy Graham wasn't at practice Tuesday, but is expected to be on the field for Wednesday's practice. Graham suffered a medical episode Friday in California, which possibly was a seizure. He didn't play in the preseason game, but participated in the joint practices Thursday and Friday.

"I expect to see Jimmy out here, hopefully (Wednesday), but I don't think it's going to be anything that's going to cause him to miss any significant amount of time," Allen said. "I expect him to be out here practicing fairly quickly.

"I think the important thing is that Jimmy's going to be OK and hopefully be back out practicing quickly."

PRACTICE REPORT: Defensive end Niko Lalas, who had all three of his sacks against the Chargers in the fourth quarter, didn't practice Tuesday because of a groin injury. Running back Darrel Williams left practice early because of a groin issue. Allen said he hopes both will be ready to play in Sunday's preseason finale against the Texans in the Caesars Superdome.

Linebacker Ryan Connelly was out with what Allen called a "fairly significant" knee injury, and will miss time, safety Smoke Monday was excused due to personal reasons and receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. also was out with a groin issue that he had going into the game.

DOME WORK: The Saints will practice in the Caesars Superdome on Friday morning, their second practice in the facility this preseason. Allen said preparation for the preseason finale won't significantly change despite the fact that New Orleans and Houston canceled two days of joint practices this week.

"It changes a little bit in terms of what we're doing, but not too much, not too significant in terms of what we're going to try to get accomplished," he said. "We'll be obviously going against each other, so we're seeing a lot of the same looks that we've seen. But we'll get some good work in that way. And I don't know that it's going to change a whole lot in terms of what we do on Sunday. We've just got to kind of let the week play out a little bit."

TRANSACTION: Receiver Bryan Edwards was waived.

The New Orleans Saints took the field for workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Tuesday, August 22.

Related Content