He has solidified himself as an end in a 4-3 scheme at the next level since he excels at many things that coaches utilizing 9-technique players desire at the position.
He is a classic 4-3 defensive end who excels at rushing the passer to the 9 gap, the most outside shade of the line. But he can sit, engage with the tackle shed that block when pursuing run plays. He is a face-up tackler who can fill his lane in run support and keep his gap integrity, despite the inclination to rush the passer every down.
He uses his hands actively when rushing the passer and playing against the run, and he gives good effort in pursuit on the backside. He is strong enough to hold the edge for his linebackers to flow to their gaps.
The problem usually stemmed from his effort, considering he displays the strength and technique to elude blocks when facing a single blocker. He will give up at times if he notices an extra blocker near him. He will need to learn how to bring it on every down in the NFL."
Johnson has been a force at DE for the Cavaliers during the past two seasons after initially playing OLB his first two years, including getting some action as a true freshman in 2008. Johnson consistently generated a pass rush, and gave a robust and quality effort against the run. Johnson's stats were 40 tackles, 5 TFLs, 2 sacks and 1 pass defensed in 2009, 53/14/6/4 in 2010, and 30/11/4/1 in 2011.
As an NFL Draft prospect, Johnson is clearly best suited as a 4-3 strong side DE, although he has potential as a 3-4 DE because of superior power. A hard working kid who is relentless on the field, Johnson has a classic NFL DE frame with long arms. Issues with hip stiffness and quickness off the snap raise concerns regarding NFL edge rush ability. Johnson's explosion, power, and ability to close quickly will certainly receive NFL attention, as will the Combine MRIs for old injuries.
Strengths: Tremendous explosion, accelerates low with power. Relentless blindside pursuit, tracks down ball carriers on the other side of the field. Fast in a straight line. Excellent wide and bull rushes when quick off the snap. Strong tackler. Has good power in hands and can anchor, shed, and chase.
Weaknesses: Is slightly high cut and somewhat stiff in the hips, likely too stiff for 3-4 OLB consideration. Doesn't change directions well. Can be late off the snap. Has a history of serious injuries, including knee and pectoral. Needs more pass rush moves beyond wide and bull."
NFL Comparison: Tyler Brayton, Carolina Panthers
He displays the ability to at least threaten the edge on his pass rush, but he's a little tight struggles to really drop his pad level around the edge. He will get upright and can easily be pushed past the play. Exhibits the ability initially to keep his pad level down, extend his arms and can be physical through contact when asked to fend his way off blocks.
Can work the bull rush through, gain leverage and run his legs through contact into the quarterback. Exhibits a good motor. Showcased more of a counter at the Senior Bowl than I saw throughout on tape. Is a more sudden lateral athlete than given credit for, which could really open up his pass rushing arsenal if he continue to improve.
Improved as a run defender as a senior. He can create a snap at times into contact and uses his length well and violent hands to shed blocks. Exhibits solid hand placement, extends his arms well and can initially gain some leverage.
When he does keep his pad level down he can hold his own at the point, he just lacks that explosive initial quickness to disengage. But will make plays off his frame because of "plus" awareness and motor. Once he does free himself, he has some range off his frame and good closing speed on the outside.
Plays fast in space and can keep his feet under him and drop off into coverage in zone blitz situations. Was banged up as a senior and needs to prove he can stay healthy.
Impression: A solid college defensive end who has never been much of a sack artist but there are some tools there. Showcases some fluidity in his drop and in coverage and has the ability to mature into a more sudden pass rusher. Will get looks in both a 34 and 43 front."
Is also quick laterally (though he is slow to redirect).
That said, lets his pads rise and negates his base strength.
Not a natural pass rusher — ordinary explosion, tight hips, underdeveloped counters and lacks a plan.
Is raw with average eyes and instincts and inconsistent compete level.
Disappears for stretches and was outplayed by the quality tackles he tangled with as a junior.
Has upside, but needs to be coached up and would be best in an agressive 4-3 front where he could slant and stunt."
Has a quick first step and good closing speed and has been disruptive enough with 6.5 sacks and 8 other tackles for loss last fall;
Also a solid run defender who plays with a solid, low base; could add some strength, though, as he doesn’t always shed blockers once engaged."
Has the speed to threaten the edge but looks more comfortable shooting gaps and rushing inside, is a good power player with above average bull rush and good counter-moves inside, can coil up and generate reasonably good power to knock back linemen on initial contact...
Strong lower body and natural length, long arms, initially stays low and does a nice job extending his arms and gaining leverage, has powerful hands, is physical at the point of attack...
Has a good repertoire of pass-rushing moves; swim, rip and club moves continue to get better, can turn speed into power and is a threat due to his combination of burst and power, gets his hands up in passing lanes when he can't get to the quarterback...
Plays with a lot of aggression, good character with the willingness to be coached up and play multiple positions; durable, has only missed one game in the past three seasons (nagging lower-leg injury vs. Idaho in 2011).
Negatives -- Is not a dynamic pass rusher, a straight-line type of athlete, first step is only average and gets too wide around the edge... Struggles to maintain good pad level, gets upright around the edge and can be pushed out of plays...
Has the frame to add some bulk, isn't really a stack and shed player versus the run as he struggles to get off blocks once engaged, doesn't look as strong and looks more comfortable attacking with blunt force... Marginal lateral quickness and agility, stiff, slow to redirect and change direction...
Loses containment too often, struggles to set or hold the edge on running plays and isn't very good in backside pursuit...
Instincts and awareness are just average, will forget responsibilities and leave his gap open to the run, can be slow to locate the ball and gets too upright when losing sight of the ball, will have some games without making an impact... Isn't a plug-and-play prospect and needs some coaching before he will start in the NFL."
When the team moved to a 4-3, Johnson switched to defensive end as a junior.
That's where he has seen most of his playing time, since he stepped into a full-time starting role in 2010.
Johnson recorded 6.5 sacks that year and he is enjoying another solid campaign as a senior. He leads the Wahoos with 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in eight games (he has missed one of the team's nine games).
Johnson, a Washington, D.C. native, has great size at 6'4'' and 270 pounds. He is a slightly better fit a defensive end, where he currently lines up, because his best asset is size as opposed to speed.
Johnson generally runs in the 4.7s in the 40-yard dash and he has been clocked at 4.67 from that distance. He can overpower lesser offensive tackles but will have to develop a go-to move or two as he heads to the next level.
Johnson would also do well to improve his run defense skills. With a strong finish to the season and a decent combine, Johnson could be a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft."