The New York Giants made the decision this offseason to let defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson leave in free agency, choosing to utilize their salary cap resources in other ways. Austin Johnson will be one of the players the Giants depend on to fill the role Tomlinson played in the middle of the Giants’ three-man defensive front.
Let’s take a closer look at Johnson as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp this summer.
Position: Defensive tackle
Contract: One-year, $3 million | Guaranteed: $3 million | 2021 cap hit: $3 million
Career to date
In four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, Johnson never really lived up to his status as a 2017 second-round pick (43rd overall). He was a decent, rotational, run-defending defensive tackle. Not bad, but not what a team hopes to get in the second round of the NFL Draft.
The Giants signed him as a free agent, hoping that reuniting him in New York with Sean Spencer, his defensive line coach when they were together at Penn State, would bring more out of Johnson.
That didn’t really happen. Johnson was for the Giants what he had been in Tennessee — a rotational player whose primary job was run defense. Johnson played just 231 snaps (21 percent). Statistically, he finished with 11 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit.
Johnson had a pass rush pressure percentage of just 2.4, per Pro Football Focus, near the bottom of all defensive tackles.
The Giants will have to get more from Johnson in 2021, and the one-year, $3 million (fully guaranteed) contract they gave him indicates they believe he can provide them with more.
Tomlinson played a career-high 658 snaps in 2020, 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Danny Shelton, signed to share the load at nose tackle with Tomlinson gone, played 499 snaps last season for the Detroit Lions, and has not played 500 or more snaps since 2016.
Someone is going to have to make up that difference. Perhaps the Giants will use Dexter Lawrence more often at the nose tackle spot, but Johnson figures to pick up many of those snaps.
Johnson has always been a decent player, but not a dynamic one. We will see if that’s enough for the Giants in the middle of their defense this season.