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HOUSTON — In his first season at safety full-time, Lonnie Johnson Jr. is taking advantage of his new opportunity with the Houston Texans, and his enhanced on-field production has him amid trade rumors ahead of the NFL’s trade deadline set for Nov. 2.
Johnson recorded his first career interception during the Texans’ Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills and has since accounted for two of Houston’s eight takeaways this season.
He has played a vital role in Houston’s revamped defense in 2021, stating that playing safety allows him the free range to use his talents and abilities to get to the quarterback more than his time playing the corner position.
“It was about damn time,” Johnson said when reflecting on his first career interception Monday afternoon. “I learned that in life, you just got to have patience — can’t rush nothing. It’s all God’s timing.”
Johnson credits the relationship with fellow backfield mate Justin Reid as one of the elements that have ensured a career season. Johnson says the safety duo has pushed each other to excellence by competing amongst themselves every day.
Johnson and Reid have a wager on which player will have the most interceptions come the conclusion of the 2021 campaign. And entering the Texans’ Week 6 match against the Indianapolis Colts, Johnson and Reid are tied with two picks respectively.
“We got that evil twin magic going,” he said. “Justin and I go out there and fly around and we are both ball hawks. You saw he took a pick from me this game. He definitely owes me. But I can’t be mad at him because he’s trying to make his money too.”
But the most significant testament to Johnson’s play this season has been the results of playing under first-year defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
Since taking over the defensive duties in March, Smith has placed a hefty emphasis on creating takeaways. For Johnson, playing under Smith is about executing the defensive scheme and making plays on the ball.
When the Texans enter Lucas Oil Stadium for an AFC South showdown against the Colts on Sunday, they will do so seeking to end their current four-game losing streak.
With Pro-Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz finding his groove the previous two games, the Colts are averaging 249.2 yards through the air the first quarter of the season.
Houston secondary will have a handful trying to slow down the likes of Wentz. But Johnson’s on-field production would improve the probability of the Texans departing Indianapolis with a road victory.
“We just got to go into the film room and flush [Sunday’s loss to the Patriots],” Johnson said. “Watch film and correct our mistakes and then go out there this next game, it’s a divisional game, go out there and try our best to win that game.”