Texans DC Lovie Smith explains decision to move Lonnie Johnson back to cornerback

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The Houston Texans drafted Lonnie Johnson in the second round in 2019 with the intention of keeping him at cornerback.

At 6-2, 213 pounds, it would be a luxury to have a big-bodied cornerback to challenge larger receivers in the game. However, the Texans did what most teams do when they get a rangy defensive back and moved him to safety.

Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith explained to reporters on Nov. 18 why the team decided to abandon the safety experiment, which they had worked on all offseason, and move Johnson back to cornerback after nine games.

“I think when you come in, first off, you’re trying to get everybody in the right position,” said Smith. “Some guys have flexibility where they can play multiple positions, and you have to let them. You keep playing them, they’ll tell you where you should go.

“That’s the case with Lonnie. He did some good things back at the safety position, mainly intercepting the football, but it didn’t feel like that was his best position.”

Johnson generated 41 combined tackles, four pass breakups, and three interceptions through eight games, five of which he has started in 2021.

“There’s a lot of things, not one thing,” Smith said. “It’s a body of work. With everything we do, it’s a body of work. We’ve been (through) training camp, gone through games, practices, meetings, all of that.”

According to Smith, Johnson has done a decent job of handling the transition.

Said Smith: “There’s a process to everything we do that we feel like is fair. There’s video to kind of tell you what you should do with guys. Lonnie, he’s at the corner position, and we’re seeing marked improvement daily.”

The Texans take on the Tennessee Titans Sunday at 12:00 p.m. Central Time at Nissan Stadium. Johnson could see his first action back at cornerback against the 8-2 club.