SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Takeo Spikes #51, Donald Butler #56, Quentin Jammer #23, and Jarret Johnson #96 of the San Diego Chargers enter the stadium against Baltimore Ravens on November 25, 2012 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson had a strong performance in the Chargers' season opener Monday night, recording six tackles, one sack, one pass defended and two quarterback hits against the Houston Texans.
Johnson, now in his 11th NFL season, has long been commended for his toughness, reliability and consistency on the field … But he seemed to start 2013 on a whole new level.
"I felt good," Johnson said.
The Florida native signed with the Chargers last season after spending nine years with the Baltimore Ravens, where he was an important part of the feared purple and gold defense. Although he acclimated well to San Diego, Johnson admits he had growing pains at times.
"Changing teams, it's hard," Johnson said. "I didn't realize how hard it is, and I don't think I respected how much of a challenge it is to be on a new team. Even though you go through the whole offseason, the whole preseason, it's tough. I really didn't feel at home until probably mid-season of last year."
This year, he said, it's different.
"It's such a big advantage being not only familiar with the guys, but with everything," Johnson said. "I was 100 times more confident Monday night than I was going into the Oakland game last year."
Added defensive coordinator John Pagano: "He keeps getting better every game. He's a guy that was in a system, and until that guy gets here and gets into the full swing where he's taking it to his own defense, his own things that he's doing, that's when you see guys elevate their game."
I, for one, am excited to see what the rest of the year has in store for Johnson. He's a player with a blue-collar work ethic, who brings a "no-excuses" mentality to the locker room and a positive leadership presence through his actions on and off the field. If the Chargers defense holds up, the trio of Johnson, Dwight Freeney and Donald Butler should be exciting to watch.