ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In the modern NFL, the nickel cornerback is one of the most important players on the team. The position replaces the third linebacker on the defense.
For the Bills, that player is Taron Johnson.
“On any snap he could be covering Tyreek Hill in the slot,” said Bills secondary coach John Butler. “Or he could be tackling Derrick Henry in the B gap. That’s not something that there’s a whole lot of people in this world that can do.”
Johnson said he takes pride in that versatility. He played over 90% snaps of the Bills defense last year, the most for that unit.
“I just try to do everything I can to stay on the field,” said Johnson. “If that means sometimes being a linebacker, then that’s what I’m going to do. I feel like I bring a lot of versatility to the team.”
The Bills cornerback is listed at 192lbs which would make him one of the lighter guys on the team. But even with his smaller frame, he plays much bigger than that on the field.
“They probably can tell the difference between a linebacker and a nickel,” said Johnson. “But for me I just want to have the same mindset as the linebackers and playing downhill like that.”
The five year veteran said he’s always been a physical player. But added that he had a teammate in college who weighed 160 pounds and played harder than anyone else.
That motivated Johnson to play the physical brand he displays on the field and it’s something his coaches respect about him.
“He does it with a smile on his face and if we ever think about taking him out of the game, he takes it personal,” said Johnson. “So he has that level of competitiveness.
When asked if he thinks his game is taken for granted, Johnson said it doesn’t matter to him. All he cares about is what his teammates think of him and getting wins.